DD Awareness and a post office miracle

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

Business or Writing: Thanking a Professor for his wise advice

Most of us have a special teacher, school counselor or college professor who somehow changed our life for the better. We remember these folks fondly, yet we rarely follow up on the long overdue “Thank you,” which they so heartily deserve. Maybe that is why I’m such a sucker for those Hallmark commercials portraying a deserving mentor finally receiving a card which expresses exactly what I’ve never said.

For example, my favorite spot features a retiring professor who is busy clearing his office of the evidence of his decades spent teaching. While he is rummaging through papers and boxing up books, a former student who is now a middle-aged woman walks in and offers him a greeting card. The curmudgeonly old professor momentarily stops his tasks and opens the card. He can’t find his glasses, so the student reads the message of gratitude the card expresses, then anxiously awaits his reaction. After all, when someone has been a supportive teacher, they forever hold this place of respect in our hearts.

Over a decade ago, I think it might have been this classic commercial that originally provided the catalyst for me to visit one of my favorite instructors. I had heard through the college grapevine that “Doc” was failing physically and mentally, and that he had been placed in a nursing facility. I was saddened by this news, because I had not only been his student, but I had once worked for this brilliant man.

As a student employee, Doc’s inability to understand that not everyone was as bright as him had been a bit of a challenge for me in the beginning. To explain, one day as a senior business major, he innocently asked if I would be able to oversee his economics class the following afternoon. Being enrolled in the course myself, I knew that particular day’s schedule was to be an explanation of the computation of the Gross National Product. Therefore, I frantically explained to Doc that I could answer his phones and grade his tests, but I was presently unable to compute the GNP.

It was also during this senior year of college in the early eighties that I was blessed to serve a year’s internship at my local newspaper, The Lima News, under the direction of then city editor, Mike Lackey. Under this award-winning journalist’s watchful eye, I learned to report about everything from election night results to a Toledo businessman’s ordeal of being held captive by Venezuelan terrorists.

Apparently, my love for journalism and the English language didn’t escape Doc’s watchful eye. One day, as graduation loomed on the horizon, I asked him what he thought I should do with my life. Barely looking up from the stacks of books and endless papers that covered his office desk, he told me that I should write.

This advice left me somewhat bewildered, because I had studied diligently to finish my business degree. Therefore, I assumed my professor would say I was destined to be an international business diva. Besides, I was the single mom of a toddler, and needed more financial security than an uncertain career in journalism could provide. As a result, I didn’t heed his wise counsel for many years.

I remembered all of this the evening when I went to visit Doc at the nursing home.
On that particular night, Doc’s eyes investigated my once familiar face searching for recognition. Then he reached for my hand, and asked, “What do you do?”
“I’m a writer,” I said explaining that he was once my professor and had told me to write. Doc, who was in his eighties by then, was confined to a wheelchair. His silver-hair fell to one side as he struggled to hold his head upright. Still there was that kind smile that I had grown so fond of long ago.

For a moment, Doc looked deeply concerned about my career choice then he hesitatingly asked how it turned out. I leaned down and assured him that it turned out OK. “I’ve written a couple books,” I said. Instantly, a smile of satisfaction slowly formed on his lips. Doc is gone now, but even near the end, he was ever the consummate professor who wanted his students to do well. Sadly, I didn’t have a Hallmark card to pull out of my purse to say “Thanks.” Instead I just smiled back and squeezed his wrinkled hand.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com