Sometimes God gives us a gift, a glimpse into His character on this side of heaven. I received that gift a few days ago.
As I parked the car, my son immediately noticed that she didn’t look quite right; there was something different about her, and her differences made him uncomfortable. I had wondered if Caleb would notice. As far as I knew, my children had never met anyone mentally challenged before, and this young women had suffered from many physical and mental disabilities since birth, leaving her soul in the body of a woman but with the mind of a child.
Caleb and I got out of the car, and as we neared this woman, Caleb whispered, “Mommy, I’m shy.” “You can be shy,” I assured him, “but you still need to be polite. I bet it would make *Linda happy if you said, ‘hello.'” I didn’t push the issue as Caleb walked glued to my leg, and I said my own ‘hello’ to Linda.
Hannah Grace had come out to meet us, and she, too, had a case of ‘shyness.’ We all walked inside the house, Linda following after us, and eventually we made our way upstairs to play. Caleb was enthralled with a race track that had a loop and spent the majority of his time with his cousin trying to get his car to successfully complete this loop. Hannah Grace and Chloe moved from one toy to the next while Linda looked on in the doorway with a smile, happy to observe the children’s play. My sister prompted her to come in the room with the kids, but Linda was content where she was.
The children continued in their fun when all of sudden Caleb looked up and said, “Hey, Linda, watch this!” and he gave his car a hard push around the track. Hannah Grace, following her brother’s example, then exclaimed, “Linda, watch this!” as she attempted a somersault. Linda beamed from the doorway. Chloe, in her own typical fashion, hung around Linda’s legs, looking up sweetly singing, ‘hi!’ and now I had my turn to beam. In their own ways, my kids had started conversations with Linda, had attempted to include her in their play.
I had heard once before that children don’t see color when looking at another person. I know this idea is not true–my son at around the age of two or three asked me why his babysitter has brown skin when ours is white–and I know now that children do pick up on differences in mental and physical ability, too. Children notice differences–they are not stupid–they just don’t let them matter.
I have had my own instances of shyness, and I know other adults struggle with how to act when they are uncomfortable, but I saw firsthand how to overcome this disability–just start the conversation, include the other person in my play.
My hope for my children is that as they grow older, they won’t let their shyness inhibit their ability to include others. They will let their compassionate hearts lead them and start the conversation, whether it be with the elderly, those with special needs, the poor, or those of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Christ wasn’t afraid to start those conversations with others or include them in His life; He didn’t suffer from shyness. And I’m thankful to my children for showing me that I don’t need to suffer from it, either.
*the young woman’s name was changed for this post