In the framework of those whose lives are often dismissed, ignored, disregarded, neglected, slighted, snubbed – those with special needs, I wonder how often we really take a mental walk to walk in their shoes?
Perhaps you, like I, have missed the opportunity to show compassion or love to someone simply because they have special needs and we don’t know and don’t seek a way to connect with them. Perhaps we have no idea how to engage in conversation with them or their caregivers – no idea how to, well, walk a mile in their shoes!
When our son was a few years old, my husband was finally able to express his fear and disappointments regarding the handicaps and challenges that were a part of our every day existence and of concern to us and our sons’ care. It wasn’t easy for him to share his heart, but did so through tears, only to hear the cutting words of the listener, “I thought you were tougher than that.” That was the last time he shared anything about our son with that person, and for that matter, with few others for many years.
If we truly walked a mile in other peoples’ shoes, we’d quickly understand what they have to deal with. We’d become aware of the hot button issues that tick them off, and we’d become sensitive to what makes them tick. We wouldn’t have all the answers.
We wished we could have had people to talk to when our son was small. The people we reached out to were probably not equipped to mentor or help us. For that reason, we desire to mentor couples with young children – or any aged children who have special needs, to listen to their challenges, to cry with them, and to encourage them. Sometimes listening to their struggles is difficult because we relive in our minds the complexities of our early years; however, the positive outcome is that with the help of the Lord in our lives, we are making it; and in turn we can give others help and encouragement to make it, too.
Every time we feel as if we want to quit, we remember that we are called to this purpose and that God did not make a mistake. Maybe we can help others who have a similar life situation as we do but who are a few steps behind us in their journey, or perhaps we can simply be one who’ll provide a listening ear if we are not in the same life situation. We just need to be willing…willing to extend the love and compassion that person needs for the moment.
- Am I willing to be a listener to someone who has a challenge different than my own?
- What would it take for me to approach someone with special needs (and/or their caregiver) and ask how I might help or pray for them this day?
- Might I offer to assist in a “caring” capacity at church by watching a child with special needs (thus allowing the parents a time of uninterrupted time to sit in church together?)
- Take a moment to observe what you see. What must their lives be like? Sit quietly and contemplate how you would “do” your life, given what you are observing. Then take a moment to contemplate the things you aren’t seeing (meal times, bath routines, temper tantrums, sleepless night, medical issues, etc.)
Remember that a care-givers’ work is not 9-5 but 24/7. We might just provide them with the love and compassion they need to keep them going…all because we took some time to WALK A MILE IN THEIR SHOES.