Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Proverbs 31:8 CEB
The following is a letter which contains some things we have wanted to say at one time or another to a relative, friend, parishioner, teacher or other professional that has worked with or spent time with our Special-needs children. In the nineteen years we have been on this journey, we have been so blessed by some of the most amazing people. Truly, the love and support over the years has got us through some very trying times. I can say without any hesitation that the good has FAR outweighed the bad! But I believe now is the time to share some things that I have never spoken. Please know, my motivation for writing this letter is to build up and not to tear down. My hope is that this letter may be helpful and not hurtful.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
We believe that people are well-meaning and that the things you have said and done were with the best intentions.
We appreciated when you met our children for the first time and spoke to them as you would any other person. Taking a genuine interest in them and engaging them in discussion made them feel esteemed. But when you said to me, in front of them, things like “You poor thing, I don’t know how you do it”, it made them feel scorned.
We appreciated when you encouraged us by saying you were praying for our children. But when you said things like, “They would be healed if you just had more faith” or “They haven’t been healed because there is sin in your lives”, it made our load a little heavier.
We appreciated how you patiently taught our children, helping them to develop their potential talents and abilities. The sense of accomplishment you fostered made their spirits soar. But when you punished and humiliated them for not doing their work like other children, you burgled their worth in their own eyes and in the eyes of their classmates.
We appreciated how you inspired them to never give up and encouraged them that miracles could happen. But when you told them, “You could do anything you put your mind to” or to never say “I can’t”, it brought frustration and disappointment. Conversely when you said they plateaued and would never make any more progress, they felt your despondency.
We appreciated how you nurtured, listened and were a refuge for our children. But when you ignored their concerns or told them not to tattletale you confused them and made them even more vulnerable. Unable to differentiate between what they should and shouldn’t tell you, they just heard “Don’t bother me.” Thereby decreasing the likelihood of going to you for help if they were ever bullied, abused or had a legitimate concern.
We appreciated how you regularly cared for their physical needs. How you faithfully endured the incontinence, drooling and other quirky behaviors which accompanied their disability. You handled it with grace and gave them dignity. No one could appreciate it more than we. But when, even though it was your job, you subtly and sometimes not so subtly let us know it was troublesome, we were disheartened.
We appreciated how you made them feel important, welcomed, loved and accepted. How you went out of your way, above and beyond to provide the warmth of your thoughtfulness. But when you chose not to include them because you thought they wouldn’t notice, they did.
We appreciated when you took the time to give encouragement and special attention to the siblings of our special-needs children. Although they do not contend with a disability themselves, they have made sacrifices and endured hardships.
We did not ‘choose’ this for our family, but we embrace what God has allowed. We are grateful for the many kindnesses we have received and we apologize for the times our weariness or frustration was too obvious. May you be blessed.
Parents of Special-Needs Children LH