My husband and I have been involved with special needs kids and adults for almost 25 years. Even at our wedding over 22 years ago, we had those with Down Syndrome, autism and a variety of other physical and mental disabilities in attendance. Many of them squealed, screamed or giggled when we kissed at the end of our wedding ceremony. It is that honesty of heart that we love!
I have been a guardian for two people who have no family who can or will claim them. They both have multiple disabilities and need much supervision and care. They live in group homes and I visit them throughout the week. Yesterday was Warren's birthday. He turned 45 but you would never know it. When people asked him yesterday how old he was, he held up two fingers. In many ways he functions at about a four year-old level. It is very simple to please him. A visit, a "pop" (caffeine free diet coke), a "ride" and a "dolla" (money) and he is one happy camper. So we arrived at his house yesterday with balloons and a 12 pack of "pop." That's when he discovered it was his birthday! He has limited speech, and doesn't read or write but understands much more than people give him credit for. When he found out it was his birthday yesterday, he was EXCITED!!! Because of all that we had on our plate this weekend, I did not have a present picked out and wrapped for him like I usually do. So, we took him to Target. We knew he would want to go straight to the "DD's" (cds). What we didn't know is that he would want to tell everyone in Target that it was his birthday! He can't say the word birthday so we would have to interpret. Most people were understanding (while keeping a safe distance) and some were completely comfortable, continuing the conversation and wishing him Happy Birthday! He would squeal with delight every time. By the time we left the store my husband and I were laughing and Warren was as happy as could be. We talked about how genuine and fun his unharnessed emotion was!
Less than 24 hours later, there were three messages on our answering machine from another special needs young man that calls my husband many times a week. The first message was unharnessed emotion as well, but it was gut-wrenching tears and incomprehensible words. The second message was his wife, explaining that his grandma died. The third was her again with more explanation. I was struck by the raw purity of his grief and sadness.
These are just two of the guys that have graced our life and given us a "special education." There is much they continue to teach us throughout the challenges and joys we face alongside them. I'm not sure how we would fare with such unharnessed emotions in our workplaces or homes, but I must say, there is something very refreshing about it all. It is just one area that they may be able to teach us a few things.
This week I encourage you to squeal with delight and cry if you must. Those who love you anyway, will love you even more!