November 18, 2019

The Healing Power of Our Special Needs Children

We have all experienced IT before. Sometimes we have to look hard to see IT, and other times IT is quite obvious. We may also see IT when we least expect to see IT. And in these precious faith affirming moments, IT opens up our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts, to God’s perfect world created for us.

Many of us understand IT to be the message of God. Of course His message is evident in the Bible through all of the Gospels and the Prophets. But as much as we may seek to understand these messages, they are sometimes lost in translation, or thought to be too vague, or too general, or too outdated for today’s complex world.

But IT is still there.

I saw IT yesterday. In the least expected moment. When I was feeling frustrated and questioning my teaching method. IT swooped in, like the tongue of flames at Pentecost, and illuminated itself to me in that similarly miraculous way that allowed the Apostles to finally truly understand what Jesus had been preaching to them for all those years.

My frustration began in the late morning at C.Y.O. Camp Marydale, at the Archery Range. One of my students became very upset with one of her peers when the peer asked her to move from the spot where she had previously been sitting. Like many young children do when faced with an unexpected altercation, she began to cry. Embarrassed and frustrated, she stood up, and ran off the wooden platform. For safety reasons, I used my loud voice and demanded that she stop and sit where she stood. I allowed her to remain in that place until she felt calm once again, with hopes that she would then rejoin the group. She remained there for the rest of the activity.

As we all prepared to depart from the Archery Range, I led the group down the wooden platform and stopped and kneeled down to face my student. “Are you ready to rejoin us?” I asked quietly. The student, obviously still frustrated, yelled at me, “I just don’t understand why she was so bothered…” To be honest, I don’t exactly recall the rest of what she had said. My brain stopped listening when she yelled, and I took the offensive. I interrupted her: “We are leaving now. Please join us.” As I stood up and began to walk away to meet up with the rest of the class, I slowly began to doubt my actions. Where was my patience? Understanding? Empathy? Instead, I took the approach of, “Don’t feed into the argument. She wants the negative attention. Don’t give it to her.” As I walked away with the other students, hoping she would follow my lead, she began to cry again, sitting still in the grass.

I imagine that many of you expect, that eventually, I did the right thing; that I went back and listened to her. Showed her compassion and understanding. But no. My heart became hardened, like the Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses demanded that his people be set free. I was determined, and absolutely sure, that she would soon follow. But she did not.

I continued to walk on, looking back every few seconds, to see if my friend had budged. But she hadn’t. I was now forty metres away or so, and it was at this point that my heart began to melt. A feeling of guilt began to surface. My position began to weaken. I obviously was not leaving this sad, beautiful, heart-broken little child alone out in Camp Marydale’s field. My resolve was broken. I would go back and make amends.

And that’s when IT happened!

A child from my class – not just any child though. A child with special needs – broke free from his E.A.’s hand, ran back to my broken-hearted little girl, and looked down at her. He waited. She looked up. She met his eyes with her eyes. She removed her glasses and wiped her tears. He remained motionless. Speechless. Expressionless. No one else was around. Just the two of them, sharing the background of a wheat field and a sunny sky. Students in front of me were following the camp counsellor, excitedly talking amongst themselves. Some remained with me, holding my hand, watching with me. Quietly.

She stood up. She took his hand. She didn’t look sad anymore. Not one bit. She actually looked empowered. Strong. Confident. Her voice rang out with excitement, “Come on! Let’s go!” she sang out excitedly. Together, hand-in-hand, they both caught up with first, his E.A., and then me. All of the sudden, it seemed as though the world were a perfect place and not a single hardship had just occurred. As they whizzed by, I didn’t say a single word. Not, “Are you okay?” Or even, “I am sorry.” It seemed as if the previous moment had been magically erased and the world was as it was supposed to be!

And the world WAS as it is supposed to be!

We may not always see God’s plan. Or understand it. Or better yet, even LIKE IT! And we may not always see the Word of God as relating to us, today, in a modernized world. But when we experience these moments; these special God-given moments, how can we deny IT? God’s special plan, God’s special place, for everything, and everyone.

I learned a lesson yesterday when I witnessed Jesus’ hand reaching out. I witnessed his healing power. And I found it in an unlikely place. In the heart and mind of a young grade two boy who hasn’t even received his First Holy Communion yet. A boy who speaks very little but shows us a lot!

Yes, we have all experienced IT before. For me, on this occasion, IT showed itself in a special needs little boy and a tender little girl. And in this precious, faith-affirming moment,  IT opened up my eyes, my ears, my mind, and my heart  to God’s perfect world.

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Written by
Scott Hewitson

SCOTT HEWITSON is a teacher for the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board in Ontario, Canada. Having taught for sixteen years, he presently teaches grades one and two.

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Written by Scott Hewitson
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