Last night following the Family Fall Walk to the creek Randy and I travelled to Jacksonville Arkansas for a KIDDOS concert. Yes, in addition to preschool teachers we are children’s musicians. Rarely do we do concerts on school days or even during the school year , but we took this one and I am so glad we did.
As I walked in I knew there was something different about Pathfinders Preschool. It just felt happy when I walked in. Is it possible for a building to feel happy ? I think so ! The office staff was happy. There was a lady reading the announcements with such enthusiasm and joy. She said things like ” you never know what a co- worker might be going through so take time to say something nice.” The parent waiting area was even smiling… yes, now you think I am crazy, right? It was smiling ! It had the most precious owls painted on the walls that seemed to whoo – whoo ” come and sit and visit with me and we can solve the problems of the world. ” As I walked in a mom came out saying something about her son not sleeping anymore and waking up every hour, but even she was smiling.
After we got everything set up and the children began to come in it was obvious that the children were special. Special needs .. of many kinds. There were children that were deaf. There were children that were autistic. I saw a few precious downs syndrome faces and so many more. The teachers had brought their carpets from their rooms into the cafeteria where we would be singing to create their ” space” for the children. The children piled in and onto the carpets. As we started our music the children laughed and clapped and sung along.
I got distracted as I saw a family that had been to one of our concerts this summer at the local library in Jacksonville. She still had a gorgeous baby on her lap but had added a cute little down syndrome baby today. When I told her I remembered her she said ” yes, I was there but I didnt have my little boy with me.” I didnt know this summer when I met her the challenge that she faced each day having a child that was special needs. ( A great and humble reminder that like the lady on the intercom said when I came in the building ” You do not know what someone else might be going through ..”
As I looked around the room ( which at times was funny , the staff was having a mis matched day. ) I was completely overwhelmed and felt tears sting my eyes and a knot in my stomach. All children come to us from different backgrounds or with different “baggage” or needs. It is easy to take the ones that are typical. you know what to expect. You know how to handle them. With over twenty years experience I have a tool belt full of strategies to make our days good and almost magical. The children that are not typical developing take more time, more thought , more planning and more patience. Isnt there a better place for them ? Isn’t there a place that the teachers are trained specifically for their special needs ?
As I started the year struggling with these questions I also started teaching Sunday School again after taking a few years off. I teach the kindergarten kiddos. The first week our coordinator walked in and closed the doors and explained that one of my children has autism and he is a ” runner.” I smiled. ” I get it God. ” This is my year to learn…. I usually focus on the teaching but this year I will learn . I will learn to broaden my perspective of what normal is. I will learn that rules are meant to be broken and there are things more important that just following a rule. I will learn to laugh and smile over successes , no matter how small. I will be taught this year… by the little ones that need me just to love them.
So.. you can imagine as I stood in a room with 150 special needs kids how overwhelming it felt. I wanted to SHOUT ” I GET IT GOD! I accept your lead. I will learn this year. ” I even wanted to laugh and say ” Ok, you’re being a little obvious now.” Obvious it was.
My heart was touched.
I saw a 6 foot 4 huge black guy with red shorts a shirt too small and mismatched socks stand up and do the hula with us and then pick up a tiny three year old and hug him giving him soothing compressions that autistic children sometimes need.
I saw teachers smiling and laughing and running and playing on a playground even when they didnt know anyone was watching.
A little deaf boy came up to me after the concert and his teacher explained he is deaf but that when we did the ABC song he signed the whole song with me. So, I sang it again, just for him and he stood next to me and signed it all. Wow….
There were little ones in strollers and others in compression vests. There was one little girl that kept large dark glasses on the whole concert because the lights hurt her eyes. There was a precious little down syndrome girl that just wanted to say hi.
I take so much for granted.
I take the kiddos I work with for granted.
I take my own children and grandchildren’s health for granted.
I was blessed today and ” Yes ,God, I get it. ”