The other day I was trying to count how many aids, therapists, helpers, specially trained babysitters, and teachers Josh has in his life. I lost count at 30. This doesn't even include the myriad of medical professionals who see Josh on a semi-regular basis. One tension that I often feel as a mother is that I lack the ability to truly express my gratitude to all of these individuals. How do you thank people who are giving a significant chunk of their days, of their lives, to people like Josh? During the holidays I think I bought $200 worth of $10 Starbucks gift certificates and wrote people many, many cards. I felt that it didn't even come close to really expressing the gratefulness that I feel. When I interact with these folks, I'm often juggling several children or running from one event to another so I find that I don't have the time (or brain energy) to really express thanks verbally.
One of the programs that Josh really enjoys is his swimming program at the Y. It's staffed by volunteers from the community and from a local university. Last week two undergraduate students were working very hard to try to figure out how to motivate Joshua to work on his swimming skills (rather than just bouncing around in the water like he prefers to do). As I watched them I felt, on a deep level, that these people did not have to do this. The local university is filled with students who are doing really "important" and career building things with their time. I am guessing that helping kids with special needs "learn to swim" is not careening them forward toward success in this world.
I think that people who work with disabled individuals are a wonderful and interesting lot. Even those who get paid for it don't really get paid much. There has to be a huge "labor of love" motivation. I'm not going to be naive enough to say that they are all just naturally giving angels with endless compassion. . . but there has to be some motivation of special love.
If I ran the world, people who work with individuals with special needs would make more money than Google engineers. I would send them all to a deluxe vacation in Hawaii for an annual bonus. They would be highly esteemed in society and given great rewards. People would declare, "Ah, these are the people who are giving with their whole hearts to those who have great need! I want to be like them!" Wouldn't that be awesome? Yes, I know. That's not going to happen anytime soon. Capitalism, productivity and all that.
One thing that I really like about the Kingdom of God, however, is that people who serve the least are seen very, very favorably. To Jesus, it seems that cleaning up after poop accidents and trying to teach developmentally disabled people new skills that it will take years for them to master if at all, are extremely worthwhile things to do with one's time. This is one of the many "upside-down" elements of the Kingdom of God that I both love and don't yet understand. I do know, however, that, because I am following Jesus, this is where I want to be headed-- into a reality where serving and loving the least is wonderful, beautiful and delightful.
Until then, I am deeply grateful for the folks who are loving and serving people like Josh.
To Alene, who knows and cares about Josh's GI problems more than anyone in the world next to his parents, thank you.
To Misty, who has fought for Josh to be able to get services, thank you.
To Anghelika, Liz, Jane, Pete, Yasi, and Chris, who help Josh to experience God in his own special way on Sundays, thank you.
To Rachel, who has hoped for Josh by making him work really hard, thank you.
To the many, many other folks who invest in Josh so that he can have a good life, thank you. Please know that I appreciate you with my whole heart and that God sees all that you do and honors you.