I think that some of the best disciples of Christ I have ever seen haven’t really said a word to me about Jesus Christ. Well, maybe sometimes, but for the most part they testify of the love and goodness of God in a vastly different way. Most of the world calls these children “special needs”, I prefer special spirits. Some may not share the same opinions of gratitude for children who are born with a different set of parameters on life than most of us. Some would see this as a sign that God does not love us, that just like war, famine, and a host of other difficult things in this life, these children are somehow evidence that Heavenly Father is not aware of us.
I would tend to disagree. Yes, when I found out my son was “different” it was heartbreaking for me. I had hopes and dreams for him that I didn’t know if the future could ever fulfill. Mostly, I was scared. God was trusting me with something very unique and special and I had no clue what I was supposed to do for him. It’s a long process, but it’s one I’d go through again and again just to have my son come up to me daily and just say “hello”, or try to crush me with a “hug”. No, my days are not always easy. I’ve seen many with much greater challenges than mine. It is hard, but there is a special reward that comes with it: their spirit. Sure, we may see them as different, we may be sad for what we perceive as their lost futures, we may fall into bed feeling helpless, hopeless and exhausted, but we also get to see them smile.
See, that’s the thing I’ve noticed about special needs individuals. For the most part, these special spirits are happy. They are not mourning over who they are. They get frustrated, just like we do, when their world is off kilter, but there is often a sense of peace, joy, and love that surrounds them. I see the goodness of God in them. Each smile is a huge testimony to me that life is wonderful, that I am loved, that the kind and good life our Savior has asked us to pursue can be accomplished. When I look at them, I notice the warmth of ministering angles that stay close by and watch over those with challenges in this life.
This week I had the chance to take my special needs son to his sports introduction program. It was kind of fun to sit back and watch all the different special needs kids with their different personalities running around with hockey sticks. There was something else I was watching as well. I was watching their coaches. They were as different as the children, coming from all walks of life, but they had one thing in common: they were truly happy to be right where they were, doing what they were doing. That’s what I’m most grateful for today.
Just as there are those whose special spirits are more obvious to the world, there are also those with special spirits that most of us don’t notice very often. You see, Heavenly Father place a great portion of His spirit in each one of those special needs children, but He also understood the challenges they and those around them would face. He placed a select measure of His spirit in others, which draws them to those that are mentally, physically, or socially challenged. He placed in them the patience and love that these children need. He’s watching out for His most special children. He’s gently guiding some of us to do the same.
I watched the children shine with God’s love and I watched that light be reflected in the faces of their coaches as they ran, laughed, guided, and cheered. So, I just wanted to share my gratitude for them, for reminding me that there is true joy in service. When we find where we can be the most effective servant in the hands of God, whether that’s what we think we’re looking for or not, there is joy. There is love. There is God. There is peace. There is home.