Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's okay, stare...

Have you ever been in public and had grown people stop in their tracks, suddenly loosing control of their ability to keep their jaw closed, and stare at you?  Have you heard the hushed whispers of adult women echoing behind you "what a shame" as you walk by?  What about the nervous shifting eyes as you wheel your disabled child past?  Have you seen mothers pull their children out of your path with more force than necessary when you walk past to avoid any awkward conversation?  What about the frantic scolding of a child by his embarrassed mother after the little one says loudly "what's wrong with him?"  Have you looked up to see the face of the offending child, being dragged away, looking back at you with beautiful, curious, sad eyes?

If so, you have felt the tinge of pain that floods your heart, the sharp anger that flashes in your soul, the silent rebukes known only in your mind made to the offenders.  You have grown accustomed to the sad state of desolation people's hearts drown in, the lonely existence of generations of people turned inward, unable or unwilling to go outside of themselves and stare reality in the face.  When you have done this long enough, you have experienced the transformation whereas your stony, angry heart has grown softer, more understanding of the suffering humanity who have not have the privileged to learn to love from the most lovable of us.  You empathize with the embarrassed mothers who you now know are doing their best to protect you from the seeming ridicule of their children, who unknowingly ridicule you themselves by correcting their children with such force.  You are able to pity the poor souls who don't see the pure beauty and goodness of the face of God in your disabled child.  The anger leaves, the hostility melts, and what is left is a desire to make your child known to all- to spread his light to these impoverished souls who so need to know what real love is.  To give your child as he was meant to be given- as a sign even this stony generation can see- of the mercy and love of God.

In light of all of the times we have been stared at, whispered about, and pitied, allow me to share with you a truth I have learned.  It's only been 3 1/2 years with Dominic but I learned not in the school of books and theory, but rather in the school of perspective.  That agonizing school of day to day reality that painfully takes your cold heart, that same heart you were sure knew how to love those uncomfortable to love, but actually pitied, and makes it real.  Let me give you a secret so many of us parents with saint-babies want you to know but don't have the words to share.  The key to loving them, and us, as you ought:

When your child stops and is overcome with doe-eyes, don't rebuke him.  It's okay to stare.  The rule to teach your children is "look, but also speak."  It is natural for a child to be curious, don't hinder that.  If you do, you are building a stone wall around their hearts.  Let them look.  But always help them come up and talk.  Don't talk about Dominic as if he were not there, talk TO Dominic.  I will introduce Dominic to your child and you can help your child shake his hand.  Touching an "untouchable" will forever impact them- will make them unafraid of the next encounter and hopefully eventually they will not need your help to love those so different from themselves.

There is nothing in our lives to be pitied.  In fact, I would argue that our lives are fuller than yours by the simple fact we are literally living with a saint.  Sweet humans with such profound disability do not posses the ability to sin, making them closer to God than we.  After all, it is not God who leaves us, but we who leave him.  So please, don't say under your breath "what a shame," instead say "what a blessing!"  Go ahead, come up and say hi, tell us what a beautiful child we have.  This will help to soften the fortress guarding the heart that prevents you from being comfortable with the severely handicapped, and that makes us suspect everyone we meet.  Coming up to those of us with children will prime you in effect to being confident to smile at those of us with "unsightly" adult children with the same disabilities.

If you are in the medical field, please don't pretend to understand.  Practice humility, realizing you do not know what it's like and your book knowledge will not make up for that reality.  Presumption is one of the greatest offenses we receive by those "educated" in the medical arts.  Your education is in facts, books, theories, processes and procedures.  You have much to learn.  Know that and embrace it.  If you have been called to this profession, realize your little years in school have taught you nothing compared with what you can learn by silencing your mind and listening with your heart to a child such as this for 10 minutes.  A good practitioner is someone who can diagnose and treat.  A great practitioner is someone who will learn.

I used to pray for Dominic to be healed, to be cured.  I prayed for him to survive and be just like everyone else.  But now I see such prayers are futile and shallow.  It is not he that needs to be healed, it is us, me.  It is not he who turns his back towards God, it is I.  God shows his mercy to Dominic by preserving him from the ability to sin, but in an even greater respect, He showers his mercy on us by allowing such great a teacher as Dominic to show us how to love.  We turn inward, into our plastic world, our well-manicured cyber-reality and deny the fact that God himself is calling us.  What profound love He has for us to send such as Dominic in our midst- we may be able to ignore the whisper of God, but we can not ignore the shocking reality of those such as this.  Now my prayer is merely "your will be done- may I learn what you intended me to learn in whatever time you give us."  But he is not just ours, he is also yours, a living sign of the love God has for all of us.  It is my hope you can hear His whisper through Dominic- listen, before it's too late.
This July Dominic had emergency surgery for a twisted bowel.  We thought our time with him was up.  God had other plans.

He teaches us to embrace our cross- just as he embraces his.