December 2, 2010

One of my daughter's playmates -- the son of a woman who is both a neighbor and friend -- was in my home a few days ago, and as is typical with this little boy, he was taking orders from my five-year-old girl with such good humor that I thought of trying to arrange a marriage.

He has been in my home many times before, and so he has seen my son Daniel and is very familiar with his differences. But he had never asked me about it, until this particular day.

I saw him watching Daniel and then listened, as he struggled to phrase the question forming in his head.

"Leah," he says to me, "Why does Daniel not know anything."

Hmmm .... How interesting it is to hear the thoughts of young children. How difficult it is for them to ask the questions about the things, and people, they find so mysterious.

"Well, honey," I tell him, "Daniel actually knows lots of things. He just can't talk to you about them."

My daughter then joins in.

"That is right," she says. "He has something called autism. And some people with autism can't talk, even when they are adults."

"OK," says our friend. "But why?"

Yes, WHY?

My daughter comes to my rescue.

"Well," she says, "That is just the way God made them."

I am not sure that answer really adds any clarity to the issue, because my adult mind still wants to scream, "WHY???" But .... it seemed to work for our little friend, who said simply, "OK."

I felt compelled to add something -- who knows why, he no longer seemed worried about it. But how will the world ever begin to truly accept people with disabilities like my son's if the mothers of these children don't try, at least on occasion, to increase awareness.

And so our little friend, my daughter and I, had the following conversation:

"You know how some people can't see? And some people can't hear? And some people can't walk?

"Yes," says our little friend, "Really old people."

HAH!!!!! I couldn't keep a straight face, but I soldiered on.

"Yes, sometimes really old people have trouble seeing, or hearing, or walking. But so do lots of other people, of all ages. Even kids. There are some kids in this world who can't see or hear or walk."

"Yeah," says Olivia. "That's why someone uses a wheelchair, because they can't walk."

"And what I think," I tell my little friend, with the knowledge that his family has a much more faithful church attendance record that I do, "is that God really, really hopes that when kids like you and Olivia, and when adults like me, see people like Daniel, who can't talk, or other people who can't see or hear or walk, that we notice them, and go out of our way to be good friends to them."

"You know, Daniel likes a lot of the very same things you do," I tell him. "And he does know lots of things. He can push the button to start his favorite video. And he can swim really well."

"Can he float?" our little friend asks.

"Yes, he can -- very well. And he can jump off the diving board. And he can swim to the bottom of the deep end to get diving sticks. And not only does he ride all of the rides at Six Flags -- even the big,scary rollercoasters, but he knows where all of his favorite rides are."

"Wow," says this darling five-year-old boy with the spiky blond hair and soulful eyes, "Daniel really does know a lot of stuff."


Maybe his parents really would go for an arranged marriage in, say, 25 years.

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