I am a big believer that children learn best through giving acts of service to those in need (And adults too) so when I heard that my students would get a chance to visit an Elderly Home, I was very excited about the whole idea. And then I met Patsy…
At first, I was a little apprehensive. Even though I’m usually very confident in social situations…as years pass by, I become increasingly nervous and shy around people that I do not know. So when Patsy saw me for the first time, she immediately came to me and gave me one of the most genuine smiles that I have seen in a while. Of course, I smiled back. I do not know Patsy’s story but I know she has one. She is not very old, not old enough to be in an Elderly Home anyways but she is there and she shines like a star in the middle of a place where it looks like few smiles are giving and few smiles are received.
I asked her name and she just looked at me and smiled. She started making gestures to explain to me what she wanted to say. We reached in a moment where most of the residents in the Home where singing praises to God. I admit that listening to the lyrics and observing them touched me deeply.
One of the songs said: “God is not dead, he is alive”, “God is good!” and these words were being sang by the sweetest people I have ever met, people with serious physical challenges that would require 24/7 supervision. My mind couldn’t avoid questioning: Why would people that probably have all the right to be bitter about life is singing praises to God?
I started singing and dancing with my students to cheer the residents up when Patsy decided to join me. Her beautiful toothless smile captivated me. She took my hands and started dancing with me and in that very moment it was like nobody else was in that room, it was just me and Patsy dancing.
The expression of her eyes reminded me of someone…I couldn’t tell who and I couldn’t stop watching them trying to figure out who she reminded me of. And then all of the sudden, I realized that her smile and sweet innocence reminded me of my middle son, my moderate autistic 8 year old… The one that struggles the most with communication, the one that displays the most autistic tendencies. And in that very moment, in the middle of the dance...I just shed a tear…it reached me so deeply that I couldn’t avoid it. My students thought the whole experience touched me and even though they were right, I was deeply moved because I was seeing my son in Patsy…
I was dancing with him. I was dancing with my boy…seeing the innocence of his eyes; I was seeing the purity of his smile…so excited about the most simplest of things and all I wanted to do was to love Patsy, hug her, kiss her… tell her that she is loved…tell her that hope things work out for her, tell her that I do not know why she doesn’t understand when I talk with her and that I do not know why she cannot speak much but that I was enjoying dancing with her a lot.
For those few minutes, Patsy was MY son. Any of my three autistic sons could be the one living in a Home like her… and I wished that every single person that meets this sweet and beautiful woman treats her with the kind of love and respect she deserves and needs…
And as I was dancing with tears in my eyes...the darkest fears of every mother and father with children with special needs came suddenly to me like a rushing wave, without warning, hitting me in the most deeply of my soul.
What if my children ended up in a Home like Patsy’s because they cannot fend for themselves? What if something happens to me? What if people take full advantage of them? Who is going to be there to protect them, love them, care for them? Would I be screaming from the other side of Heaven and imploring God to show some mercy upon my children?
I reached home that afternoon from work. My heart was heavy. I looked at my middle son and simply said: You are going to be okay. You have to.
He looked at me smiling, completely unaware of what I was thinking and saying and simply said excitedly: "Mommy is home!" And for him, it seems like everything was just right with the world.