Notice the Messengers
I could feel the heat from the gooey asphalt playground seeping through the thin soles of my sandals one hot June afternoon, watching my son Dimitri and his friends play. About 8 and 9 years old, they belonged to a “special needs” class in a K-6 school, in the town where we were living North of Los Angeles. I have never been able to stand any of the labels given to our children, including “special needs”, trapping and stereotyping these gifted young people within an already limited system, robbing them of their opportunities to shine and others perception of their humanity. I prefer messengers.
My heart was bursting with the joy of love for these radiant, wonderful, loving children. We should have done better by them, I thought to myself. We should have been better advocates, seeking mainstreaming in integrated classrooms with supportive teacher’s aids. Almost 40 years before, after all, hadn’t the message been sent and mandated that separate is not equal?
We should have worked harder to have a facilitated, integrated playground—to eradicate cruel, archaic and prejudiced rules once and for all, so children whose natural inclination is to play together would not have learned early on that different meant separate, and worse, the erroneous and vicious perception of less than.
Instead of our messengers and typical children playing together, accepting and enjoying both differences and commonalities, our children had been separated, provided with a “safe” area. I could see Eric, black hair gleaming, brown eyes shining, pausing at the top of the slide—his favorite vantage point to see and observe all the playground and its tumultuous activity. What was going through his mind—was he content? Did he feel left out? Had he already learned that he didn’t belong?
My own son Dimitri watched a four square game from the corner just outside—I knew he desperately wanted to join in, but autism prevented the language necessary to say can I play? Jose Luis played on the swings alone, and Marilyn, at the edge, watched other girls playing hopscotch.
I was haunted. We should have done better by them. We should have worked harder, advocated stronger, followed up better and harder. We had only obtained precious, hard fought but sparse victories in the punishing, mind bending, drawn out California Fair Hearing process. Everything took forever in Fair Hearing, and we were still in its soup. We tried so hard, and it felt to me that we were not enough. We should have pushed our attorneys (they were superb, excellent specialists, working hard with us to transform such a system) harder and faster, I thought. Worse yet, after months of continuous advocating, this is what we end up with? Books and materials in the separated classroom, and recess at the same time?
My heart cracked. Suddenly, I felt small, unworthy of the love and trust of these brilliant young people, these gifted messengers. God, help us all (me) see what we need to do—show me, please, I thought.
Suddenly, as if by some invisible mystical signal, Dimitri turned from the edge of the foursquare court. Eric zoomed down from his perch atop the slide, and Marilyn and Jose Luis, always observing it all, all turned their heads quickly. They all started running towards me, arms open wide.
It was a magical moment. I couldn’t understand what had happened. Reaching me, together, they literally knocked me over with their Divine, unconditional love. For them, in that moment, there was one most worthy, most wonderful, most beloved person in the world, and that was me. Unlimited joy in abundance. Hugs and hair flying, I knew that this was one of the most amazing and wonderful moments of my life. (I was wrong. Thanks to these messengers, there have been many, many more, frequent and often.)
Obtrusively, loudly and rudely, the bell clattered in our ears, the teacher blew her whistle, demanding her students to line up. I paid no attention, and either did the children—we all sought another moment or two more of this Divine love, Divine joy.
A few more moments passed, and we all got up, the children, hands outstretched, pulling me, helping me to stand up (where is the message here?). The children didn’t hear the bell above the noise I was making, I explained to the teacher. I’ve reflected often—who are these children? What have they chosen to be here in this time, in this way?
What are they offering us, which we need to pay attention to—to remove our blinders are really see and discern? I think I’ve mostly sorted it out—I was literally knocked over with the answer.
Our children are messengers from the Divine, here to represent and express, on this planet, Divine unconditional love and compassion, true Divine values. Whether they have eloquent expressive language, or not, or see, or not, or walk or run or not, or play with other kids or not, these messengers have chosen this tough but brilliant path.
I think we need to take a look, listen and pay attention. I think we need to experience and express respect and integrate everyone together, so we can all have the benefit of the energies of these children and adults. I think we need to notice what these extraordinary messengers are expressing and reflecting to us.
What happens when you listen to the messengers? What have been your adventures and experiences which would encourage other families? We are truly one community, and each child is really all of our children. Let us hear from you so we can support and encourage and learn from one another. Our joining together as a loving, learning, supportive and joyful community –I think it’s part of their message. Let’s listen.