The God that dreamed us up makes no mistakes. I see God in the face of the ill at the hospitals I frequent, the poor and oppressed, the severely learning disabled and the one who opens the door for the young single mother toting a baby on her hip. Though today, my mind has traveled back in time to my teaching years. They were good years, working as a speech and language specialist. Some were in programs for the poor and disadvantaged and other assignments were amongst the very private, elite elementary and high schools in my region. I enjoyed them all, but as we added more children to our own family, I considered myself fortunate to come home to tend to my own full-time. There was a gap in time, prior to doing so in which I still needed some additional income. So, I picked up a few tutoring jobs with students within their own home settings. It was just a temporary couple of assignments, but one student in particular that helped fill in that gap, gave me a gift.
That would be Ephraim. (I changed his name for privacy sake, and what fun that was to pick out a child’s name again just then!) Only Ephraim was not so much a child in chronological years, as he was in intellectual years. He was nearing his eighteenth birthday and we were pushing the system to continue to provide for his needs, as he was autistic and deserving of continued care.
I did not have much experience with the autistic as a therapist, as I mostly worked with children with language and articulation problems, but I always loved a good challenge. I prepared heavily for meeting Ephraim by reading his files, test results and researching communication options. I was determined to provide at least a basic daily language skills communication board or system of some kind for him and his family. As it turns out, what little I was given to work with, I would be devising this method and any materials required myself. I soon learned that God sent Ephraim to teach me, rather than me to teach him. Some times the Maker is surprisingly creative like that.
One glance from the front door to my student at the dining room table revealed a handsome and promising young man. I was greeted by the kindest and most relieved looking set of older parents, who quickly took the opportunity to welcome me into their home with warmest of greetings. They did seize the opportunity to take a break and step out into the lingering autumn air with me there. I placed my briefcase down and slowly made my way to try to get near as possible to Ephraim. He allowed that, from the first day, yet never looked at me for weeks to come. He was full care, needing to be fed, clothed and aided in moving about. He also needed to be changed as he was yet still in diapers. Some days were better than others, and I soon learned to start with the basics and we were associating objects and words on the level of a very young child. I was striving my best, not wanting to let this young man or his family down.
The family owned a great mobile vacation home. I soon learned that this was a hide away of sorts in their own yard, for family members to take a well-deserved break from the constant, exhausting care of Ephraim. It was also one of Ephraim’s favorite places to be however! One day, his Dad greeted me at the door and told me to leave my brief case in my car. We linked arms with Ephraim and took him to the trailer to let him sit in the driver’s seat. That was the first time I heard him laugh and laugh he did, as what appeared to be a cup of saliva flowed out of his mouth. He simply loved sitting behind that wheel! His Dad explained to me, that despite the professional Child Study Team services and this young man’s Individual Education Plan, he simply wanted his son happy. That was above all goals for his son. This father made it crystal clear that I was to focus on being with Ephraim, rather than all the doing that we had planned and wanted to know if I could understand that?
I glanced at Ephraim and I glanced over at his father and I thought of our Father in each one of us that day.
I soon began to see God in the face of Ephraim. We often played simple games in that trailer, we did puzzles together, and we blew thru straws, and traded small toys back and forth. Some times, I was lucky enough to have a helper and to take Ephraim on a short drive around his neighborhood in my car. The motion was of course stimulating and entertaining for him as he glanced out the window and he often would just laugh the entire time on a good day. There were many bad days too. But how beautiful a moment in time was, like heaven on earth when Ephraim would finally look ever so briefly into my eyes, linger a few seconds and smile broadly, all the while dumping saliva and me cleaning it up as fast as I could. I can’t quite describe the feeling of joy, love and peace that would be contained in those very few moments of connection. They would give me a smile that would light up my heart for days and his parent’s hearts as well, when they would take notice. The first session that happened, his Dad hugged me and said, “Today-that- was-it , that is all we want, not academic achievement, not promises, not tests and more evaluations, but love and happiness.”
I was used to demands-very big demands while participating in Child Study Teams. This was all new to me, and while we had those formal sessions that were periodically required of us all, Ephraim would sit in the next room in his wheelchair and his Dad would give me a wink as all the professionals would use their big jargon. We all had to take our prospective places in our occupations, but I think his Dad was everything good and right. He had made certain that Ephraim was as functional as possible and went as far as he could go in every area of development, and surrendered the rest. I also found he did his surrendering to God. We got along even better from that time on. What was a temporary job, simply stuck in between the corners of my life, and taught me much.
God has a special place in his heart for the people this world does not. It’s vital that we do our best and put our faith into action, but God was teaching me a different lesson this time about simply ‘being’. He wanted me to learn that some times that is enough and that his children are enough, and unique and loved so dearly by him. He taught me that the heart is more important than the mind and to speak plainer and that there is much time to keep big words out of my mouth in this life. This young fellow gave me no arguments, no intellectual debates. He didn’t have a lot of words, but had the miraculous capacity to suddenly connect at times. Those moments of love and sharing of raw emotion and the little affection I was able to break through to share with him meant so much. I know those moments originated in God, the Source from the very beginning. I know that Ephraim was fully human and fully part of God’s kingdom. As I left that assignment and made my way home, I took the lesson with me that it is also at times easier for the most simplistic of minds to speak and believe in the Living God, than the lofty and gifted. Some days, I still pull of my memories of Ephraim and his family out when I need to remember what matters most.