Blessings In the Heart of a Child

Last month my daughter came to me with an information packet about a group at school she wanted to join. It was called the Star Program. The way she explained it was that, ‘it teaches us to learn about different disabilities so we can teach our friends and family.‘ She was over the moon excited to join. As I read through these pages, I started to tear up. And it continued for a while.

I’ve mentioned recently her apprehension towards crowds, centered attention and strangers when she was small. That she’s come far enough to even want to step out into a leadership role was a full circle moment of joy for me, and great pride for her. The group would include students with special needs and also those without. My teary, full circle moments came inside the realization that she will always hover somewhere in between the two.

When she was a baby, she had a brain hemorrhage that left her with seizures for the better part of five years, and a left sided tremor which she still wrestles with daily. I see her handwriting go from tidy and meticulous, to virtually unreadable from week to week. And her hearing has faded from last year alone. I walk through these struggles with her, always ready, and knowing it could have been far worse.

I chose to immerse my daughter in this specific district for the advances in special education they were modeling. They had speech and occupational therapists in-school, along with a nurse and staff trained for cardiac and epileptic events. More importantly were the abundance of paraeducators to stay by the sides of these children that needed centered care. We came here in preschool and this is her fourth year. Each year, she’s had special needs children learn right alongside her, the way she did her first two years. No one is ever made to learn separately and every student is equally accepted. Apart from the classmates learning to support, encourage and cheer on the accomplishments of these friends in class, the Star Program was going to take this several steps further. To help them see a better picture, not only of how they can help in a larger community, but how they can educate others by fostering that acceptance and inclusion.

We filled out her application which asked questions like ‘why do you want to be a part of star’ and ‘what would you like to learn’. Then she signed her name to the pledge of understanding that, if she was accepted, she would be representing the school as a leader and role model for other students and was expected to present herself as such. She took that part especially serious…(even though, in the true spirit of belonging to such a group, no one was denied acceptance ❤ My heart!!)

She brought her acceptance letter to me jumping and screaming and we celebrated with a toy and icee at Target. They would meet every Thursday during lunch and have a guest speaker each week. And their first outing was to be an Army/Navy vet wheelchair basketball game at the high school, and I put in my time off for it the next morning. I needed to be there.

Last Thursday the chaperones and students descended into the risers in the high school gym along with hundreds of others. Some with service dogs. Many in safety chairs. Many not able to leave the side of their guardians. And I was immediately overwhelmed. Not in the chaos of it all, for once. But in a consuming feeling of love and purity.

I watched the paras joyfully meet up with one another after years apart. With tears in their eyes, I watched them hand in hand with their new students, greeting children from their past, now grown and flourishing. I watched the teen leaders of Connecting welcome in the next generation of human empathy in these 6 and 7 year olds. And I watched all of these gentle souls promoting kindness and a sense of belonging from level to level. To level. A truly unique and courageous community, quietly beneath the surface of what we take for granted every day. Bolstering the bonds between the two worlds. I was renewed in the presence of the strength in this type of compassion.

My daughter, with her private struggles, cheered along with friends who have their own. She was determined to be here long ago. And she was determined to belong to this group in the present. I understood, then, that this child has placed me exactly where I was meant to be in my life.

Sam

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20 thoughts on “Blessings In the Heart of a Child

  1. This is what life is supposed to be…..serving others, learning from others, understanding and appreciating the world’s people come from. Your journey with your baby is an absolute Blessing. She has already put a mark in this world. Thank you for sharing this. ❤

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    1. You’re welcome and thank *you* as well! 🤗🤗🤗 It was such a comforting notion, of feeling led by her. Certain events from her childhood have even begun to make more sense. I think in the deepest parts of me, when I look ahead for her, these will be ties that hold her to her community, to her schools, and her work. Hopefully one day teaching but she hasn’t said much about that. 😒

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      1. She has already started on the teaching path😊…..who knows, one day she may be an Activist, publicly speaking and taking a stance for disabilities, gatnering more funding for programs, making more of a change, being a pillar of strength and hope for those whom can’t speak for themselves. She has already started. You have already planted the seed of teaching….you just don’t know yet, what type or kind of teacher she will be. I feel her childhood is going to be the reason why she will be able to look at life and utilize her gifts and calling, so much clearly with so much more depth. God makes no mistakes in His creation. Everything is for a reason. 🤗

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        1. 😭😭😭 Oh, I dearly hope so!!! She’s grown so much this past year and I’m so…SO grateful for all the opportunities provided for these kids. When I was little I always felt like there were never any resources for us. We had to search them out, probably not qualify somehow, or watch while kids in pretentious districts got all the opportunities. In our grade school we just had to show up and honestly sometimes they didn’t notice if we did not. I knew even then how much abuse and neglect they were overlooking in the students. I’ve gotten off track obviously but my point is that if they didn’t even value their students, they were never going to push them for greater things. At 845 I better have *already* emailed school when my daughters sick or they will be writing me asking where she is/is she okay/what are her symptoms?! #tangentinCmajor

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  2. How lovely is that! ❤

    My daughter's school receives extra funding for special needs kids (not all school have this) and the kids mix and mingle with everyone during lunch recess. One girl, three years younger than my 11 yo, invited my daughter to her birthday party and to her home for a playdate. My girl accepted both. She says she seems to have a knack with the special needs kids, they follow her around at recess. 🙂

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    1. She has a beautiful spirit!! It would be wonderful if this were second nature to so many more kids who have had these experiences.

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  3. Such a wonderful post! I was tearing up reading it! Your daughter sounds truly wonderful 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Robyn! It took me a while to get it back together once I was done with this one! 😣😣😣

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  4. Too wonderful for words…just out standingy wonderful.I am so proud of her and you too.

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    1. Thank you so much 😊 We are not quite 2 months in and I feel it’s going to be a phenomenal school year for her!

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  5. Reading with tears streaming down my face, Sam. Soooo good xxxxx

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    1. 😢😢😢 Thank you so much! I reread it myself and keep getting weepy, lol. All good though! Progress, progress!

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      1. You’re such a good dad xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Sam, I have tears in my eyes! What an amazing daughter you have – what a blessing she is! I love that you took time off to be with her and to share that experience! Big hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you, Janie 😊😊😊 I have learned so much from this at times OVERLY willful child! These realizations and paths she’s brought me to make all the hard times so rewarding 😭

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      1. I can only imagine how wonderfully rewarding she is! And how someday, she will look back and share all the wonderful memories you’re making with her! 🙂

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  7. I really love this. And, the heart of your daughter sounds so amazing… she seems to be a beautiful soul…a “star” if you will and you are amazingly blessed to see it at such…thanks for sharing

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    1. Thank you so much!! She had her first peer leadership event today and it’s never been so easy to get her out of bed in the morning, lol! 🤗🤗🤗

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