Just listen . . . really, really listen.
Just listen . . . really, really listen.
A place to be who I am
no walls to hold me
no chains to bind me
A light in the
of my soul
long searched for
No longer alone
no one cared
until I found
thoughts of many
are kept by keepers
the value of
Crystal R. Cook
Acceptance is the greatest gift we can give to those who may be different in some way. I was fortunate to have learned early in life to accept those who were not just like me, I was also fortunate to be accepted by them in return.
My mother taught me well, I played with children who were different and they played with me, I never knew others shunned them or judged them until I was blessed with a life changing event, a moment in time which cemented my resolve to help and advocate for those others would not.
I’m not certain just how old I was, perhaps twelve or thirteen, right around the age I felt I was too old for Girl Scouts but wanted that last badge. My girl scout troop was invited to a place called Hope Cottage. It was a home for physically and mentally disabled people. It was an emotional day for all of us; it would be years before I grasped the full meaning of all that transpired during our visit.
From the outside looking in, it was a building like any other, nothing fancy, maybe even a little run down. When we stepped through the doors, we entered into a world we never even knew existed. As I looked around, I noticed a young man, sitting alone. He seemed to be having the most wonderful conversation with someone only his eyes could see. Not too far away sat another boy, rocking to melodies only he could hear. A girl, older than me judging by her size, was seated in an adult sized high chair of sorts, being spoon fed by one of the care givers.
Her name was Joy and I will never forget her. As our guide was introducing us, one of the girls in my troop noticed Joy had on a rather large diaper peaking just above the waistline of her pants and began to giggle and whisper about it to her companion. They were both taken from the room immediately. Joy just smiled an innocent, unknowing smile and turned back toward her meal.
Our guide explained Joy had been shaken when she was an infant and even though her body continued to grow, in her mind, she was still the playful baby she’d once been. One of the girls in my troop began to cry and was taken from the room as well; Joy looked toward the door and with a mouthful of oatmeal said “Hug?”
Suddenly the room began clapping for her! “Good word Joy!” She beamed, she absolutely beamed. I couldn’t help but smile even as a tear fell from my eye. I was asked if I wanted to leave, but I didn’t, I couldn’t.
I remember looking around the room at the drawings decorating the walls. Some of them could have easily been drawn by toddlers while others were amazing works of art. It was as I looked upon one of these portraits, a young man whispered, “That’s mine.” I smiled as I told him it was a beautiful picture. I had no idea then it was his, a glorious work of art created by a boy who lived his life somewhere along the autistic rainbow.
Joy began to cry as the oatmeal was being wiped from her chin, I found myself by her side offering words of comfort. Her big baby hand took hold of my arm, the woman firmly said “Be soft Joy.” She was. She smiled at me; she truly was a beautiful baby.
Before I knew it, we were being rounded up to leave. I think part of me did not want to go and the other part of me wanted to run and never come back. I experienced many emotions in the days and weeks to come. I felt sadness, confusion, pity, perhaps even anger.
Soon, my sadness faded as I realized they were not sad. I’d not seen frowns on the faces of those children, I’d seen beautiful smiles. My confusion vanished with the help of my mother’s wisdom. I realized I had no right to pity them; they did not want it or need it. Any anger I may have felt was fleeting, it was more of a helpless type of anger. The sort you feel when you think you should be able to change something you know you cannot.
Years later I drove past the run down home and saw a mansion. I looked past the unkempt grounds and the peeling paint and saw a mansion. Through the window I saw angels. I have always wondered if they were the children who resided in the cottage named Hope or if they were the care givers who kept watch over them. Maybe they were all angels, simply here to teach us and touch our lives.
That day changed my life forever. Maybe it was that day, as I looked into the eyes of Joy; God decided he would bless me with children who would require a little more than most. Children who would hear melodies I could not. Children who would live in a rainbow of colors I would not always be able to see.
I often think of the young girls who laughed and I hope they learned something from their experience, I hope they took something home and taught it to those who should have taught it to them. I think of the girl who could not stop her tears from flowing and I hope she found peace and understanding.
Our world is made up of more than color and social status, more than what we see with our eyes, we have to look with our hearts as well. We owe it to our children and their children’s children to make the future a place where all are accepted and never will there be a need to ask if children should be exposed to angels . . .
I will never forget that day. I will always be thankful I was given the opportunity to stand among angels, holding hands with Joy, in a place of Hope.
It begins within, listening to our hearts, not the world around us. I choose . . . we all have a choice.
How much of how we feel about our fellow man has been dictated by the prejudice of others? Resentments from the sins and sorrows of those who have come before us remain, festering and growing in their absence. We feed them, we nurture them and we pass them on.
We copy and paste them into our own psyche, we adopt them without question. Sheep following an unseen shepherd to the slaughter. I too often hear people trying to justify and defend their attitudes and opinions with false arguments and phony indignation.
The thoughts they think are not their own, merely recycled resentments inherited from family, friends and foes of people they may have never known. Willingly passing on these ideals to the next generation without questioning why.
If we stopped to think for ourselves, would we see their experiences are not our own? Would we realize we have shaped our world based on the broken model of theirs? Would we notice we’ve damaged it even more in the name of progress and change? Would we see we can’t look at our own experiences through the tainted lenses of the past?
Our country is more divisive and separated and prejudice than it was before many of us took our first breath of life. Our society has managed to twist the dreams that once were, we have found new ways to undermine each other, to build walls of separation as we pretend to tear them down.
We say we want equality in this country but equality is just a concept, it can never be achieved, especially when everyone who cries out for it seems to want more than the rest. There can never be equality while there are those who have no means to even stand in line to receive it.
We use the word acceptance when what we really want is applause. We fight for what we call human rights when we have forgotten what human rights really are. We fight for freedom of expression but place restrictions upon it. We right for freedom of religion but we really want everyone to agree with our own beliefs . . . at least that is what we accuse each other of, slowly molding it into a reality.
The needs of the some have become more important than the needs of the many. We champion the criminals and forget their victims. We shout platitudes to placate the masses in a cacophony of false hopes and empty promises. The ones who fight for our country are now second in line to those who invade it.
We are broken by the choices we’ve made . . . Soon, their won’t be enough to mend.
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