One of the best experiences of my life.
It was my first time. My church has a special needs sector, and volunteering there is an option.
The kids were amazing. The pleases, thank yous, and sorries were abundant. There were kids with several disorders: mitochondrial disease, down syndrome, autism. They were sweet and respectful.
Have you ever pushed a wheelchair? I promise you won’t understand what these kids go through until you do. As you push, you see how others look at the child you’re pushing. You see everything: the pity. The curiosity. The embarrassment and avoiding eye contact. I was lucky enough to not have to see disgust.
Then I went with them to see the message. I sat next to a young girl in a wheelchair, the same girl I pushed. We watched everyone dancing and singing, talking about self control. And that’s when I lost it. I started crying heavier than I had in a long time, hidden by the darkness of the auditorium. Poor girl. Poor kids. Having to go to church, maybe even against their will, only to watch messages they can’t relate to at all. How can you teach a kid with special needs self control with a little song and prayer? How can any of us understand the struggle they must go through everyday, just wishing they weren’t in the minority that has to deal with the suffering everyday? Or maybe they don’t think about these things. Maybe that’s why they always have such good hearts.
When we got back, I sat next to the girl in the wheelchair. I looked her in the eye, and I said, “You’re probably really smart, aren’t you?” You should have seen the smile on her face after that. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.
One of the worst parts? No one thinks about their personality (in general, in this world). What their favorite color is, what they like to do, how they like their toast. Whether they despise or love puns. What they would do when they get older (even more heartbreaking to think about). We just classify them under special needs and forget that diversity lies in that category as well.
These kids are no different. In fact, they’re more innocent and have better manners than most kids. They’re dealing with more than I will ever have to deal with (hopefully), and they deserve a lot more respect than they earn.
To everyone reading this, I promise to go back. I’ll go back and be the person they need, or I’ll be one of the best people they have. I’ll pay attention to them and who they are. I’ll be a friend.