Dear Special Needs Mom….
Dear Special Needs Mom,
You were ahead of me in line at Costco. You had a cart with two older children and a load of groceries. Behind you was your own mother pushing a cart that was empty except for a lovely young girl sitting in the front.
She had on a pretty pink summer dress and no shoes. Between her hands she held a long black sticker with the number “10” stamped down it in a neat row. No doubt she pulled it off some clothing item and you decided to pick your battles and let her keep it. She held the sticker close to her eyes and a then up in the air in triumph—twisting and turning that sticker as though it were an exotic treasure.
And she babbled to herself in a sing-song like manner with words that I couldn’t understand, although she was old enough to be understood. But you probably knew what she was saying. I tried to make eye contact with her and engage her, but she stared right through me and around me.
I looked at you and smiled. You smiled back but your eyes gave away your weariness. Your hair fell out of your ponytail and you pushed it behind your ear as you continued to unload your cart.
The cashier grabbed your bag of chips and said you’d have to select another, after all, they sell them in bulk…you can’t buy just one.
Your shoulders slumped in defeat. “Sorry,” you told the cashier. “I’ll have to just leave it. I can’t run to the back of the store for a second one.” Your eyes darted toward your daughter. You knew that even a small change in plan would be too much for her.
Your mother offered to run back, but you just shook your head. “I’ve got her and we can’t do it.”
How I wanted to hug you and tell you that I’ve been there. I know what it’s like—a simple shopping trip can be like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The simple and mundane things in life can sap what little strength you have left some days. I wanted to applaud you for bringing all your children out together, taking the risk that it could go wrong and then to endure the glaring stares of those who don’t know.
I wanted to tell you to hang in there. Remember all her successes, no matter how small. I wanted to remind you that your daughter is beautiful and perfect just the way she is. I wanted to tell you that as long as you try your best, you are not failing as a mother, even if you feel that your best is not enough. Believe me, it is.
I wanted to say that this road we walk may be complex, but the rewards are high. There is beauty in learning to give your time, strength, energy and resources to those who can only give love in return. There is great joy in serving the vulnerable. And though it may be hard to lose independence, we have an opportunity to learn about interdependence and the richness in community.
I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. Not ever.
There is One who doesn’t promise to magically make all our challenges go away, but He does promise to be with us every step of the way (Heb. 13:5).
We need to feel the strength of others around us. We need others to help us and return that help when we can.
But sometimes others just can’t be there.
Some days that promise from Christ is all we have. And for me, that is enough.
Another Special Needs Mom