Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I have learned from a child with special needs

I have been challenged by a friend to share some of the life lessons I have experienced with a special focus on children and adults with special needs.  In case you do not know it our third child, Preston, was born with down syndrome.  So at least for a few stories I am going to walk you though what I have learned.

September 3rd, 1987 Preston was born around 6 P.M. and in a hospital in the Dallas area.  The doctor told us we had a healthy baby boy.  The doctor was older and had a rough bedside manner but still seemed to be a good doctor.  Of course we shared the good news with lots of folks on our call list.  There was no texting and cell phones weighed about 5 pounds and were pretty expensive so no one had a cell phone.  We did it the old fashioned way, we called on a land line.  Think about it, pause, a huge number of young people born after 1980 have no idea what "dial a phone number" really means.  And how about "answer the phone, it is ringing off the wall".  They don't even know what an 8 track is.  OK, back to the story. 

The excitement was slowing down and we were settling in for the night when around 10:30 I walked by the nursery to see my new boy and I saw the nurse crying.  I just assumed one of the new babies was having trouble and I never considered it was Preston.  At about 11 the nurse retrieved me from being with Shouna and took me to a small room where the doctor was waiting.  He began to tell me about down syndrome and why he suspected Preston had the extra chromosome.  He suggested we should consider putting Preston in an institution.  He asked me if I wanted him to talk to my wife.  There was absolutely no way I was going to have him deliver such a message after he had done such a horrible job with me.

As I shared the news with Shouna around 11:30 or 12 we both cried a little and neither of us would consider giving our son to be taken care of by the state.  I am blessed that my wife has a positive attitude and relies on her assurance that God is in charge.  We prayed together and talked for a long time.  I have no idea when we rested but the next morning we started the task of calling our family and friends and telling them the news.  This is probably one of the situations I learned the most from.

As we called most were politely apologetic if for no other reason than they just did not know what to say.  One person expressed that "if we prayed hard enough Preston would not have DS".  I wish I could say I had a great Biblical or Christian response but I just said to Shouna, "that is the stupidest remark I have heard".  One of the common remarks was "God gives special children to special parents".  Again I declared "BS".  Don't get the wrong idea here, we felt confident we were blessed.  We just did not know the answers to a lot of questions.   What did we / I learn?

  • saying something, even if it was stupid or clumsy, was better than nothing from our friends
  • a baby is a blessing even if "normal", whatever that is, is not to be found
  • start by looking for what good is to come rather than dwelling on the negative
One last thing to end this story.  One of the biggest blessings I have ever received and one of the biggest learning opportunities happened that day by around noon.  During my calls I called Larry Lippel in Oklahoma City who was a dear friend and co-worker and asked him to share the news with friends at the office, FDMC/First Data Management which also was known as SCS which was the ATM network in Oklahoma.  He did not say much but as I was walking down the hall in the hospital about 2.5 hours after talking to Larry he stepped off the elevator and walked toward me.  I think he was speeding, of course.  Even today I choke up thinking about that act of kindness.  Larry was about 6 ft. 6 in. tall and he walked up to me and put his arms around me and squeezed like crazy.  I felt like a pimple ready to pop.  It was a long hug and we both cried.  His first words were he wanted to see our baby and see Shouna.  We went straight to see the babies and I proudly pointed out my new son.  We walked down to see Shouna and he hugged her.  Larry was a strong believer in Jesus but had dropped out of church and that day he promised he was going to get back to his relationship with Christ.  Honestly I don't remember another thing he said or did.  He did not stay long and then drove back to OKC. 
  • I learned that being there is more important than anything
  • sacrificial giving of time and a big hug says more than 10,000 words
  • that day was the beginning of a testimony from Preston about a life with Christ, Preston had already made a positive impact in Larry's life and ours
I am shutting down for the night but hopefully as I write these stories they can be of benefit to others and record my life for you and my family.

So, what do you learn in the Osage?
  • everyone can make a positive impact on someone's life, be an ADDER not a SUBTRACTOR
  • life is full of surprises, make the best of them
  • when life throws you a curve, adjust and get a hit and most of all keep your eye on the ball
Thanks for listening,

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