While on a pre-Thanksgiving walk with me yesterday morning, Josh began to sing a muffled version of "I Don't Need Anything But You" from the Annie soundtrack. He knows the song because his sisters uploaded it on his ipad and he listens to all of the music on that device constantly. I decided to join in and we sang a silly little "Josh style" duet. I would sing most of the line and he would sing the last couple of words.
It went like this:
Susan: "Together at..."
Susan: "Together for..."
Susan: "We're tyin' a knot, they never can..."
Susan: "I don't need sunshine now to turn my skies to..."
Susan: "I don't need anything but..."
Josh had no affect in his voice as he "sang" but I could tell that he was having a good time. We walked for a while like that in the woods near the little town where we have come for a few days of Thanksgiving vacation. Josh vacillated between wanting to sing and just stopping to clap for a while, making happy vocalizations. No one was around so just let him do whatever he wanted. He seemed extraordinarily content.
Inspired by my son's joy and detached from the many needs of my family, my house and my life, I began to count the things that I am grateful for in my son's life. Here are a few of them:
1. I am grateful to be able to go on a walk with Josh. When we were first told of his diagnosis, our doctor told us that it was questionable whether he'd be able to walk at all in his life.
2. I am grateful for how far Josh has come in his behavior management. He rarely bites himself or others anymore. He has outgrown his tantrums and has only cried a handful of times at school this year. This is amazing given where we have come from.
3. I am grateful for the variety of foods which Josh is able to eat. So many kids with special needs also have dietary limitations or allergies. Josh loves to eat a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. He is my my most flexible child when it comes to food.
4. We have come so far in Josh's toilet training. I'd say that we are 97% there and if we could just get him to commit to a higher level of quality control with wiping, we'd be done! It's taken about 10 years but this is not easy stuff for a kid like Josh and we've had to divide it up into about 40 different steps which each had to be mastered. I'm also so grateful for the dozens of therapists, aides and specialists who have helped us in his process of learning.
5. I'm grateful for the parable that Josh is in many so people's lives. Tim Shriver, the CEO of the Special Olympics and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy said of his intellectually disabled aunt, Rosemary Kennedy, "She walked in the house and she didn't have to do anything. Everybody loved her," Shriver recalls. "And you didn't have to do anything for her. She'd sit with you and talk to you. Play games. Swim. Walk. No earned love." Like many people with intellectual disabilities, Josh is my constant reminder of the intrinsic worthiness of any person. It's the love and touch of God which gives us value, not what we can do or accomplish. Therefore, we are free to rest, just be together and work hard since our identity is wrapped up in none of these.
Have you taken a few moments in the past couple of days to reflect upon the things that you are most grateful for? If not, I strongly suggest that you take time to take a slow walk by yourself or with someone that you love. It's a great gift in making space to savor the good things of your life and to give God some applause.