Someone said that everyone became one of four things during the pandemic: a hunk, a chunk, a drunk, or a monk. I am afraid my bathroom scale tells me which one I have become.
While that might be a generalization, I think the last few years have allowed many of us to change some of the things we always did for reasons we can't remember. Habits like exercise or reading the Bible, reading to our children at bedtime, or scheduling time with our spouse are great things. But, to be honest, I can't remember why I do some things anymore.
Maybe the last three years were a great big reset button. While not a great season for the world, and in many respects, things are still not great, it did help us reexamine life and what is most important to us.
Companies that required every employee to sit at a desk in the office three years ago are entirely remote now. So if you ask them why they wanted everyone there, most won't give you a good answer.
It did affect us at Need Project.
Our Parent Project for example. Doing video interviews with parents became impossible. Families had to make decisions to limit interactions to keep their families safe, we understand entirely. The good news is we are back to interviewing families. As things are opening up, we are scheduling new interviews and making plans to share the wisdom of the families we serve with you.
Another exciting thing is the grant we received to improve our resource database. Disabling Barriers is an organization dedicated to supporting the disability community. They believe in what we are doing to provide resources to families, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to improve how we serve our community.
All of these developments make me excited for this year. I know there are still many challenges for all of us, but I am eager to create more support for families and individuals and share all of it with you.
I had a unique experience the other day, and I didn't know how to respond. I needed some wood to finish up some trim work I am doing in our home. So I went to the local big-box home improvement store to pick some up. After choking over the new prices for wood, I got what I needed and headed to the register. I found an open cashier and pulled forward to have the young man check me out. He enthusiastically came out from behind the counter to scan the items in my cart. That is when I noticed something unique, the young man was making random noises, and in between scanning items, he would hit himself on the head multiple times.
These are not something new to me. I have friends with various behaviors, and I know they are no sign of ability or disability. The situation was different. It threw me off a little.
I so wanted to give him a hi-five and then barrage him with questions about his journey and how it was working at the store.
So many things raced through my mind. First, I wanted to know if the retailer made it easy or hard to get the job. Second, I wondered if they offered specialized training as some do for veterans.
I wanted to know what his favorite part of the job was or what he didn't like. Also, I wondered how he enjoyed working in retail, something I am not fond of doing.
I realize that if I had done any of those things, it would have probably made him feel awkward. Some stranger in line, asking personal questions and bugging him on the job. Would I do that to any other person at a register? No, of course not.
Not to brag on him too much, but he checked me out faster than half of the others would. Didn't ask me if I wanted to signup for a store card was courteous and sent me on my way. I wish that were always the case.
In the end, I did what should be like any other day. I smiled, said, have a good day, and went about my day. Later while thinking about it, it made me smile. Things are changing, and I am eager for the day that I no longer see that as a unique situation. It seems like that will be soon.
Last night my family watched "It's a wonderful life" like we do every Christmas. Most of our pre-movie discussion was about the fact that the copy online was the restored colorized version. Some of us are traditionalists and don't like it when they colorize old black and white movies. It made some of the scenes better, and some I could have done without the color. The much better thing was that they cleaned up the audio so you could hear what everyone said.
While all the pre-movie discussion was about the film's aesthetics, the after-movie conversation was different, and it was about a life well-lived.
Most of the movie is the setup for the last 30 minutes. You see the life of George Bailey, and like many of us, he has big dreams. He plans to do everything but stay in his town, run the business his dad created, or even to live a somewhat "normal" life with his wife and kids.
I found his story to be a lot like a special needs parent. How many of us chose the life we have? How many of us had a plan and dream of how our life would go only to have it turned upside down! We spend our lives getting surprised by new circumstances and challenges. Like George, parents continue to make the best decisions they can base not on what is most comfortable but on what is best for their child and family.
Unlike George, parents rarely get to see the effects of what they do or their decisions. Most of the time, parents continue to the next day, week, year, or season, hoping to have made the right choices. I know from time to time, we get to see small victories, and those victories sustain us.
Like George thou, I would suspect that if all that was precious to you were magically gone, you would be frantic. And like Clarance's statement to George at his worst moment, the moment where he realizes everyone he loves has never been in his life, I want you to know what George finally realizes. Despite all the trials and tribulations, It has been a wonderful life!
Keep up the fight. We are here for you!
Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!
I read through a few parent blogs the other day and came across a post entitled "When Your Child With a Disability Isn't a Superstar." I love this post by Ellen Stumbo for her honesty about how we as parents can sometimes make our children and their achievements all about us. It reminds me of the joke about wearing clean underwear if you get into an accident because it would reflect poorly on your mother. As parents of children with special needs, we learn some things that other parents might not ever grasp. It isn't about us!
In response to Ellen, I want to say, I am the parent of an over-achieving child, and I have had to learn the very same lesson, but in a different way.
In 1992 our son Kyle was born two months premature. After a month in the NICU, we took him home, and over the next few years of doctors and therapy came the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Over the first eighteen years would be countless therapy sessions, over a dozen surgeries, botox injections, and other procedures to ensure the best possible outcome for him physically.
Very early, it became clear that despite his many issues, his speech was not one of them. Because his life revolved around therapy and doctors instead of his peers, he developed a very adult speaking manner. This fascinated adults who met him and resulted in him interviewed for local news stories. He had a knack for getting in front of a camera. At seven, he was interviewed by Dr. James Dobson on the Focus on the Family nationally syndicated radio program. At thirteen, Kyle was featured in The Truth Project video series with Dr. Del Tackett. These resulted in other follow-up interviews and recordings.
Through all, Kyle maintained a 4.0+ grade average in high school, which lead to a scholarship to do his undergrad, then his masters, and now is in the fourth year of his Ph.D. at an ivy league school.
Maybe unlike Ellen, people want to say to my wife and me that we did a great job, but I want to tell you it has nothing to do with us. Our son has been his own driving force since he was very young, and most of the time, I have felt like I am holding on to the tail of a fast-running horse, barely able to keep hold.
Our son wanted to be involved in speech and debate, so we figured out how to get him there and stayed to make sure he could compete. When he asked to go to church camps, we volunteered to be leaders or made sure someone was watching out for him.
When he went off to college on the east coast, all we could do was worry and pray. I have woken scared that I had made a mistake, thinking I should have kept my son at home. I had thoughts of having to drive or fly across the country to save him from some catastrophe. When he has called and told us of trips to Turkey or Greece, I have felt my heart in my throat.
How many of us can make our children what we want them to be? Or can we protect them from everything? We have had to let go of what we want, or even the safety that makes us comfortable. What we have had to realize is that our son is becoming who God wants him to be. The best thing we have done is to get out of the way. We can only do our best to set him up for success and trust God for the rest.
I know we had about three months before all of the lockdowns and closers, but it seems like it has been a few years since I left my home without making sure I had a mask in my pocket. I also can't remember the last time I had an in-person meeting. Do you have Zoom fatigue as I do? In a conversation with a friend the other day, I lamented that I wished for everything to go back to the way it was. His response hit me hard, Bob, it will never be the same!
My friend is right. It won't be the same. The hard part is not to look at that as a negative, I know things have changed, but it isn't that all of the changes are bad.
I understand that outdoor activities have skyrocketed in popularity. Bicycle shops can't keep bikes in stock, and camping supplies are also hot commodities. It seems since we have to be online much more than before, more people are figuring out ways to get away from it all. In my estimation, that is a great thing. If you need a reason to stop looking at your screens and devices and get outside, watch Netflix's The Social Dilemma documentary.
While I do have Zoom fatigue, that is more in the context of work. It seems that more people are keeping in contact with friends and relatives over the internet like never before. We could do all of this before lockdown, but maybe we were too busy? Being forced to slow down has allowed us to reconnect with our loved ones. I think it has made us realize we need to take life a little slower. We don't need our schedules filled every hour of every day. That is an excellent thing!
Luckily, my children are older and not in K-12 because I know that it has been quite a mixed bag for families. Some have struggled with the online, varied schedule or back to full-time school that the start of the school year has brought. While some have struggled, some have reevaluated school and found that an initial chaotic situation is working out for the better.
I know that there are still a lot of families struggling. There are too many out of work or finding the balance hard. As we move forward, we will find that what has been hard for most it going to help us take a fresh look at life, work, school, and many other things. It will help us make sure that what we spend our time and money on are the things that matter most to us, and that is something good that will come from 2020.