For those who follow my social media pages, it is no secret that I am the mother of two boys with special needs. More specifically, I am a mother to two boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder (a.k.a., ASD). My sons are still very young, my oldest being 6-years old, and my youngest 5-years old. Since my sons were born, I have become an advocate and a voice for children AND adults with disabilities. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to go out picketing at the next protest against a store or organization that discriminates against people with disabilities, but I am also not one to sit by idly while someone makes rude comments or incorrect assumptions whenever a person with disabilities walks by or is being talked about. I speak up whenever I am confronted with an injustice, plain and simple. However, speaking up is not the only way I am an advocate.
My favorite form of advocacy is kindness. I will explain what I mean by using a recent encounter my family and I experienced while at church. I do have to set up this story, so be patient. Since our sons were able to communicate in some fashion with us, my husband and I realized that our sons with ASD can be on the “vocal” side, and quite loud I might add. Because they tend to be loud and (depending on emotional triggers) have meltdowns periodically in public places, my husband and I have had to be very selective in where we take our children. Restaurants we go to for dinner or lunch have to be kids-with-ASD-friendly, or family-friendly in general (although perhaps more than just that). We were asked to leave an Appleby’s, a Carrow’s, and a burger joint all because one or both of our boys had a meltdown. We were told that we were disturbing the other patrons even after we paid for our food. But my example is about a church experience.
Robert, my husband, and I learned that we needed a church where there was a “crying room” for families with small children, but also a church community that welcomed families with children with special needs. Sadly, my husband and I have already been “asked” to leave 7 churches in the span of 6 years because we were “disturbing” the other parishioners. Each time we were asked to leave, it was never the pastors, but always the members of the congregation. Church on Sunday was meant to be a time of prayer, worship, and community. Being asked to leave by the community interrupted our prayer and worship time, so my husband and I are still on the hunt for a new community where we feel welcomed. This Sunday was different. We decided to attend a Saturday evening service instead of Sunday, hoping it might make a difference. We arrived approximately 20 minutes early, and were promptly greeted by only one of the three ushers at the door. They must have saw us several yards away struggling to get our kids down the sidewalk while the boys were fighting over the umbrella (yes, it was raining hard) and one of the boys having a meltdown in the middle of the sidewalk.
Robert, being an efficient spouse and not wanting to waste time, immediately apologized to the usher who welcomed us for the scene the boys had created in front of the church and also explained that both our sons had ASD. The usher was very welcoming and said not to worry about it. He even said that they (meaning our sons) are still very much a part of the church family just as everyone else who enters the doors of their church. It was the kindest thing I had heard since beginning our search for an ASD-friendly church. Throughout the service, he checked-up on our family to make sure we were comfortable and that the boys were okay. He even reassured us that the noise was not a problem. What was more shocking was that the people who sat around us were also kind to us. My husband and I still did our usual apologies for the lack of volume and behavior control for our sons, but the parishioners who sat near us said it was no bother AND that we were doing a great job being loving examples to our kids.
Wow! Such kindness and understanding was enough to make me want to cry. Was it possible we had finally found a church community that understood what it meant to be in our shoes? My mood and my heart were much lighter the rest of the evening. I could sleep peacefully knowing that there were people out there who were not only kind to us, but understanding of our situation. Our sons… our entire family was going to be okay, and we were doing the best we could. The simple gestures and words of kindness made a world of difference at a time when I was expecting to be treated poorly or judged harshly. Kindness makes a world of difference. When I did my research on how kindness could make all the difference, I found an encouraging story from a mom, just like me, who needed someone to be kind to her son (see the article at http://inspiremore.com/mom-of-autistic-boy-felt-discouraged-and-alone-until-a-simple-note-changed-everything).
In my book series, The Last Prophet, it is acts of kindness and expressions of love that win and convert the hardened hearts of people. Genuine kindness and expressions of love are what eventually change the heart of a demon-halfling in the series (spoiler alert!). I have heard it said that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Although I don’t like the image that fluids covered in flies conjurs up, it does make a true statement when it comes to winning a person over to your side. In my family’s case, it was the honey of kindness that has helped us find a new church to attend.
Have you experienced transformative kindness? Were you an agent of kindness toward someone? Please comment in the space provided.
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