How to Change the World in 14 Days

Right now. (< That’s when we need to get a grip.)

If we wait… or hesitate… it’ll be too little too late.

If you read my previous post about the Coronavirus pandemic (Hi, Dad!) you know my opinion that PANIC!!! is not helpful… or healthy. Not at all. But in the days since, I’ve seen another cultural trend emerging. And it goes like this:

Me first.

(Actually, I suppose that isn’t really a trend. It’s been the norm all along. It just hasn’t been quite as obvious.)

We’re all guilty of it sometimes. It’s hard-wired into us, self-preservation, survival-of-the-fittest and all that. But we don’t have to live by instinct. We can choose instead to live for the common good. Because I believe that’s instilled in us too. By someone who embodies goodness.

God.

(Believe it or not, you bear a striking resemblance. See?)

Frankly I’m a little stunned by the pushing and shoving and hoarding and hysteria. (Toilet paper? Can someone please explain this to me… Does panic cause diarrhea?)

And then there’s the devil-may-care, I’m-not-scared, social-distancing rebels. Who flip the bird at scientists and medical experts… and refuse to make even the slightest adjustments to their own plans for the greater good.

Seriously?

Stop.

Because here’s the thing. All these precautions and protocols and postponements might turn out to be an overreaction…

Or they might keep people alive who otherwise would have succumbed.

See if you’re pro-life, then you ought to be advocating for all lives. The very young/very old, rich/poor, healthy/strong/disabled/diseased, white/brown/black, housed/homeless, conservative/liberal/moderate, law-abiding citizen/convicted criminal, straight/LGBTQ, Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Wiccan/atheist/Universalist/secular humanist, homegrown American/refugee/undocumented worker, people you adore/people who make your blood boil… You get the idea.

Now would be a great time for us to start taking care of each other.

It’s great if you’re not afraid of COVID-19 (because living in fear is a killer too), but if you contract it – or asymptomatically carry it – and then share it… it could turn out that your nonchalance is deadly.

To someone’s grandmother or godfather or favorite aunt. To a beloved teacher or friendly cashier or war hero.

Let’s honor them by protecting them.

There’s a great line at the end of the movie A Few Good Men, when a dishonorably discharged Marine makes the realization that – in following orders – he actually failed to do his job.

We were supposed to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.

It’s not just our military or medical professionals that ought to be charged with the difficult task of fighting for the vulnerable. It’s all of us.

…If you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front… Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. ~ Philippians 2:1b-4 (The Message)

We’ve all read uplifting/inspiring/amazing stories about real-life heroes. Now’s the chance to be one.

Here’s 7 things we can do – right now – to change the world:

1. Keep our distance. (6 feet, give or take.)

2. Keep our composure. (For heaven’s sake, can we please stay calm.)

3. Keep our hands and households clean. (Don’t forget phones/remotes/keyboards/door knobs.)

4. Love our neighbors. (Look around. Who needs help? Lend a hand… or kick in a few bucks.)

5. Love our families. (Always lamenting that you don’t get enough time with the people you love? Me too. Here’s our chance.)

6. Love ourselves. (Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s smart. Take a walk. Take a nap. Read a book. Bake a cake. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Start that project you’ve been planning to tackle. Breathe.)

7. Pray. (For the sick and those caring for them: doctors, nurses, lab techs, support staff. For our government leaders, local officials, community and school administrators. For first responders and 911 operators. For hourly-wage workers and small business owners. For food-insecure families and our homeless neighbors.)

We’re all in this together.

(HSM fans, I know you’re singing the chorus. The rest of you, I apologize for the ensuing earworm.)

The medical experts and healthcare officials all agree. We can do this. We can flatten the curve, lessen the impact, contain this virus and control the damage. We just need to do the hard thing.

Come together… by staying apart.

In so doing, we might just save a life.

(Or thousands.)

Wendy

P.S. While we’re fighting this battle on our own soil, let’s not forget everyone else. Let’s pray for the people of Syria, China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, Japan, France, Venezuala… Prayer may turn out to be the most effective anti-viral treatment ever.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. ~ James 5:16 (NCV)

Especially Needed

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This one is for every momma and daddy chosen by God for special assignment.

The parents of the kids who live/learn/look different than most. (You know, the ones the playground bullies call misfits or freaks… or worse.)

The parents of students too often perceived as slow or stupid, deemed “unable” or “disabled” and marginalized in many of the fine arts, athletic and extracurricular opportunities afforded most kids. (Which makes them feel – nearly every day – less than.)

The parents of the ones targeted by verbal abusers, who hear the “R” word on the regular, who grow accustomed to sitting alone, staying quiet, staring at their shoes. The kids trying to survive school (days… years), sometimes without a single true friend.

This is for every mom who’s had to leave a public place mid-errand because her daughter – diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – had a full-scale meltdown due to impulse control problems, sensory overload or debilitating anxiety.

Every dad who spends hours shooting hoops with his son – diagnosed with an emotional and behavioral disorder – because none of the neighbor kids invite him to play. Ever.

Every mom who makes three different meals for her kids because they have different diagnoses – oral-motor difficulties and sensory processing disorder – and their tastes, texture responses and chew/swallow capabilities vary widely.

Every dad who spends hours each week helping his adult son – diagnosed with dyspraxia – shave his face because fine motor problems make that task nearly impossible. (Or a bloody mess.)

Every set of parents who has spent countless hours caring/comforting/correcting/ protecting/advocating/intervening/teaching/researching/scheduling and meeting with doctors, therapists, psychologists, special educators, social workers and tutors so their child can know his worth, find his way and reach his potential… or “just keep swimming” upstream in the mainstream.

This one’s for you, weary momma. (You too, sleep-deprived daddy.)

I see you. I get it. I’ve been there. Right where you’re standing. Or kneeling.

(Or curling up in a fetal position.)

On hard, holy ground.

And here’s what I want you to know, love.

You’re not alone.

And neither is your kid.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up… Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Thank God. Help is (on) the Way.

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. And here’s what all of us parents of autistic and developmentally-disabled kids wish everyone else knew:

Every kid has special needs. Our kids’ needs aren’t more or worse. They’re just different.

Our kiddos get hurt when your kiddos whisper, point, stare and/or steer clear of them. Encourage your kids to get to know ours. (Start here: Smile. Say hi. Sit nearby.)

Just because our kiddos struggle with social cues doesn’t mean they don’t want friends.  And it also doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to teasing, taunting and other mistreatment. No one should ever be called a “retard” or a “reject.”

Ever.

Our kids may not be able to do what your kids can do. But they are extraordinary too… and able. Able to connect. And care. Able to feel. And fill a place in this great big world that no one else ever could. Able to learn and laugh and love (BIG). Able to find joy in the simplest things. Able to reflect beauty and bravery with stunning clarity.

The bottom line is this:

A diagnosis or disability shouldn’t define a person.

Labels are for clothes, containers and canning jars… not people.

People are God’s masterpieces, that’s why.

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. ~ Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Exquisitely created by God. Made for good works… and meant for the good life.

All of us.

Not just those who sit still or speak clearly or happen to perform well on standardized tests.

Every body.

Our incredibly special kiddos want to be seen, not stared at. Heard, not hushed. Treasured, not tolerated.

If we want to be more like Jesus, we need to celebrate every kind of diversity. Developmental, intellectual, chromosomal, and cognitive too.

Because wonder comes in all kinds of packages.

(And God doesn’t make mistakes.)

“Learning differences” doesn’t simply mean hidden strengths or undervalued abilities. It means unique perspectives, priorities, vision, and passion.

A fresh outlook. Invaluable insight. Infinite worth.

Because God said so.

And just like He does, we ought to cherish our children. Celebrate the best in them (and bear the worst). Embrace the possibilities. Affirm all the divinely-appointed potential.

Let’s keep encouraging, uplifting, applauding.

Let’s give blessings and big hugs and high fives.

Let’s savor every step and stride. (Each one is a tiny-but-mighty miracle.)

Let’s treasure every triumph… and honor every tear. Like our Father does.

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8 (TLB)

Our God sees, knows, cares… comforts.

My son has a laundry list of diagnoses, but none of them mean anything to him. Or us. Zack is funny and fiercely loyal. Passionate and particular. Humble and kind.

Zack is adamant about fairness… but he’s also the first to forgive when he gets shafted or shorted. Zack is strong and healthy… but he cares deeply about the weak, the sick, the suffering. Zack knows the power of words. He feels (deeply) every blessing. And curse.

He’s a big fan of college sports, country music, cheeseburgers and naps. And he’s good at putting things together.

When he was little, it was 100-piece Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles. And now it’s electrical and industrial pre-fab assemblies. He’s good at this stuff. Really good. Come to think of it, he’s a lot like the LORD that way. Taking things in pieces… or falling apart… and putting them back together. (Like Father, like son.)

But you know what Zack really wants?

He wants his life to count. Wants to contribute and connect. With God and other people.

Despite his learning disabilities, Zack is a gifted teacher. He taught me how to be a mom. He guided me away from controlling tendencies and conditional love and toward faith and compassion. He tutored me in persistence and patience. (And yes, he tested it too.) Honestly… Zack has taught me more about mercy and goodness and good humor than any professor, pastor, teacher or counselor I’ve ever had.

To me, Zack isn’t “special needs.”

He’s especially needed.

In our family.

And in the world.

Z ~ I love you all the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Momma

P.S. If you or someone you love is a young adult who lives with the label “autistic” or “developmentally disabled” and wants to lose the label – and find an awesome community of friends and mentors, let me know. To learn more about our nonprofit, Seeds of Hope (which provides mentoring, vocational training and jobs for young adults like Zack), please visit our website.