Monday, June 27, 2011

Lessons from "Special People"

Time has become a precious commodity in my life. Not so much that I don't want to try new things, but rather the result of my plate being full with upcoming events: my 40th Class Reunion, a couple of Wedding Showers, my mother-in-law's 80th Birthday Celebration, Relay for Life, Kiwanis, our son's wedding, a small part-time job...and not-to-forget summer school. This is all good and I feel most fortunate to have excellent health and a state of mind which allows me to stay active, but there are also times when you have to call for a "timeout" and pause to spend a day with someone who needs a friend.
My wife's nephew, John, is one of those "special people" who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. He is the same age as our son, Jacob, and I recall his early years of life when he was filled with anger and rage. His parents chose to ignore the symptoms and over time his condition deteriorated to the point where he could not make good decisions. Since he cannot live independently on his own, he now lives in a group home almost 2-1/2 hours south of us. John enjoys calling us whenever he can, and often this is 4-5 times per week. In our mind those conversations are redundant, but to him they represent a connection with "family," providing an outlet for him to stay in touch with his immediate family and maintaining his positive outlook on life.
Yesterday we made the trip south to spend the day with John, and we all went to a local community fair in Lake Mills, one with carnival rides and games. John had a blast enjoying the simple pleasures of eating a corn dog, tossing darts at balloons for stuffed animals, shooting basketballs at the hoop in hopes of winning a poster, sitting on the park bench while the local folk band played songs from The Eagles, walking the midway, finding pennies on the blacktop.....all of this brought out the BEST in him....and ME! It reminded me of how important it is to stop and smell the roses of set more time aside for John and all the other "special people" in the world. They represent innocence and love. They have need for the company of family and friends. The greatest gift we can provide is our time and attention.
By the end of three hours John was ready to return to his home, greatly in need of a nap and quiet time. He gave us a hug, thanked us for coming, and encouraged us to return for another visit before the end of the summer. His comments and smile reminded us of the lessons we can learn from the "special people" of the world. To keep a little room on our plate open for them. To take a day every now and then to enjoy the simple pleasures with all the John's who need us to be part of their life.

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