Who would ever expect to find a miracle at the post office? About a decade ago, I did. While waiting in line there, it seems common practice to act somewhat aloof, distracted, and hurried. There is also an unspoken etiquette about children staying with their parents and not addressing strangers.
Late one afternoon, a young mom with three small charges was blatantly breaking all these rules by allowing her kids to run free. Well, at least two of them were enjoying freedom as she precariously perched a chubby infant on the counter. Then she spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time discussing her mailing needs with the postal clerk.
This mom appeared oblivious to the lobby full of customers and to her approximately 4-year-old girl, who was constantly checking on another sibling hiding under one of the mailing tables. When I say, “hiding,” that’s not exactly accurate. From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the young boy, but I could hear his voice beckon to each new customer who would come within range.
“Hi Buddy, how are you?” the boyish voice would call aggressively. Some folks ignored the voice, while others would bend down and answer the child’s question. If they didn’t answer, the voice would become more insistent. I wondered why this mother didn’t tell her son that he was defying post office etiquette, and that he should leave these busy adults to their hectic world of personal thoughts.
As the minutes passed, I drew closer to the table. Although the child still wasn’t visible, I glanced at the burly middle-aged man with soiled coveralls who was about to be the boy’s next victim. I thought to myself, Mom, you really need to intervene. This stoic looking factory worker is in no mood to deal with your ill-mannered child.
Too late. “Hi, Buddy, how are you?” It must have been the 20th time I had heard that statement. The boy’s tone had become so demanding that instinctively the tired laborer bent down to look under the table. The worker’s indifferent face softened into a smile, and an almost tender, “Hello,” came from his lips. He extended his large callused hand to shake the child’s tiny hand. I couldn’t wait to see this kid who could turn a gruff-looking man into an affectionate puppy.
I didn’t have to wait long, since it was now my turn. Eagerly, I peered under the table unprepared for what I was to see. The boy was about six-years-old, but his smile and the look in his eyes were different from that of other children. He was like my nephew, who is almost thirty, going on three. Instantly, I regretted my harsh judgment of his distracted mother.
During March, our nation observes Developmental Disability Awareness Month, where we note the many accomplishments of the folks that I like to refer to as God’s special children. Their achievements are indeed noteworthy, because they have to overcome countless obstacles, and need the support of the community to succeed.
Diverse groups, including lawmakers, educators, and individuals with disabilities themselves, have been pushing for change and heightened awareness for years. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine online, “Developmental disabilities are severe, long-term problems. They may be physical…[or] may affect mental ability…Or the problem can be both physical and mental, such as Down syndrome.”
Besides those with disabilities, we should remember the sacrifices required from their parents, siblings, extended families, and by those who compassionately care for these precious people. After all, unless you are involved firsthand, it’s impossible to fully understand the daily challenges a disability can present. Especially, in a society that values physique, intellect, and success, there is sometimes little empathy for this vulnerable population.
That’s why, even though the progress made in acknowledging the rights and accomplishments of individuals with disabilities is exciting, we can’t forget to applaud the parents and families who devote so much for the betterment of their loved ones. In addition, a hearty societal “thank you” to all of the dedicated workers, educators, and professionals, who spend their lives caring for God’s special children.
For the beautiful song, “Sometimes Miracles Hide” about being the parents of a child with a disability by Christian musician, Bruce Carroll, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgZvax0NKSg
Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning journalist. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.