There is a bittersweet feeling within me this week. Because in May when the school year ended, I resigned from my teaching position. I did so for a number of personal reasons and have no regrets about doing so. However as the new school year begins, I find myself remembering all the precious little souls that I have taught.
I was a special education teacher of the most specialized sort. I taught children with all sorts of severe and multiple disabilities. I taught those who were born weighing one pound who through the advancements of medicine, are alive today. Those who in the eyes of society should not be here. They were weak, medically fragile, and had no hope of being “cured”. Some of my children were in wheelchairs, some with feeding tubes, and some with chromosomal abnormalities that left them less than attractive. I have had a child who nearly died of a grand mal seizure while in my classroom and one who did pass away from a seizure while at home. These children needed physical care 24 hours a day.
And if the physical limitations of some weren’t difficult enough, I remember those with severe autism. Those who were trapped inside of physically healthy bodies who had no way to communicate and no understanding of the world around them. With those kind of frustrations, fears, and limitations, the least little thing might set off deafening screams, running away, and tantrums like most people can not even imagine.
So with the physical and mental limitations, what do our special needs friends have that we do not? First they have a free ticket into heaven! Their souls are as pure as the day they were created. They have mankind’s greatest need already met.
They have the ability to teach us to see Jesus and to become more like Him. As I spent time with them, they loved me unconditionally (1 Peter 4:8). They didn’t care how I looked or what I was wearing (John 7:24). If I was less patient than I should have been, all was immediately forgiven and grudges never kept, (Matthew 18:22-23). They had no worries for tomorrow for they just enjoyed the day! (Matthew 6:25). They never showed prejudice by looking at the color of another person, whether they wore the right clothes, or were part of the “in” crowd (James 2:1-4). And joy…well just look at the sweet face in the picture above. Some of my kids were the most joyful people you’d ever know (Galatians 5:22).
We need to value, appreciate, and learn from them. So how do we do that? Look for opportunities to include them in our social circle. Take the the time to speak to them and spend time with them. Never speak in front of them as though they were deaf. Try to meet any needs that they have physically or socially. Reach out to parents or caregivers and support them any way possible.
Yes, I miss my little buddies, but I know that there will be a great reunion one day. Sometimes, we look at all the physical and mental deficits in them and feel pity. I think God must look down at the rest of us and see all the spiritual deficits and feel pity for us. They will all be in heaven. I just want to be sure that I get to go, too!