Have you ever felt grateful? I mean truly grateful from the bottom of your heart; that even words can not describe the depth of the feelings within your heart?
My son, Zak is special. We know it - we see it; but in all honesty it can be hidden from the average eye. And, as special as he is he can also be difficult, hard to understand and to the average eye appear - odd.
I know this - I have been told this. I have watched as others have treated him as such. I have listened to parents of other kids tell me about what they think is wrong. I have listened as parents justified their children's unkind words and actions towards Zak - explaining that kids like him are 'scary'. It bothers me - and hurts. To date, it has never hurt him - he does not read their disdain. To him, everyone is his friend.
So, when I have seen this discrimination and scorn towards my son; I can not tell you the gratitude I have when he is treated - not as normal - but human.
Sunday after Sunday I watch as he interacts with others at church. His interaction is never normal and even more rarely - predictable - but welcomed. I see it when people pass him in the hall - very rarely is Zak passed that someone does not acknowledge him - by name.
Perhaps they do not know what that does to a Mamma's heart.
He is not always the best behaved in class - but they don't come looking for us - the easy way out. They work with him - help him - have someone shadow him - so he can learn.
Somehow my respect for the pastoral staff grows when each one of them takes time for Zak - often stopping in the hall on their way to a meeting to sit and chat with him for a couple of seconds. I have watched as they have asked him to come tag along with them and help them with a project. I have watched his eyes light up as they say their hello's.
I have watched as he has been treated like a person - not a freak side show - that he is rising to that level. He is becoming the person he has been treated like. He tells me of the nicknames that people have for him - he loves each one of them. Most call him Mr Zak. (Even in that name there is a respect.) His favorite nick name is one his VBS teacher gave him, "Zak-attack". He laughs and tells me how much Pastor Pardee loves him. I know he is right.
He sits through choir practice - not like a normal six year old. He hears every beat - he understands every rhythm and every muscle in his body moves with what he is hearing. He obediently sits, but as he sits, he directs the choir - just like the choir director in front. He looks odd - a bit strange - but instead of seeing the uniqueness of the situation and shying away from him - people see and understand. They look past the odd movements and see him.
They see him the way I see him.
The usher sees him as he is wiggling and jumping around in his seat. (Waiting for an offering plate to come your way can be very hard when you are six, have autism, and a dime in your hand!) The usher smiles and seems to try to speed up his pace. I watch as he proudly put in his small coin. I know God sees his smile, looks past the wiggles, and is thankful for one so excited to give.
I have listened as his violin teacher has said that she will do everything she can to teach him; and watched her come through on the promise. They don't see his limitations - they see his possibilities. Quietly, gently they work with him. The progress is never quick - in fact, it is hardly big enough to be seen week to week; but they are taking time; and in their time they are reminding me that he has a future.
I am grateful, beyond what words can even begin to write - that our son has found a place to be. A place to learn to grow and to be accepted. Isn't that what church is supposed to be for all of us. A place where we feel loved, secure and accepted.
Perhaps he does not read body language the way I do - but then again, maybe he does. He does not see it with his eyes - but he feels it with his heart. Zak knows that when he is at church he is loved. As that knowledge has grown - I have watched him grow too.
I think that everyone - in all stages of development - should feel that they are loved and accepted; not because of what they do - or don't do; but because they are.
Thanks for stopping by, I am so glad you did.