Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had the opportunity to spend a day in the company of a bouquet of the most beautiful blue roses I have ever seen.
If you don’t know what a blue rose is, please read the following story. The author, sadly, is unknown.
Having four visiting family members, my wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items, which included light bulbs, paper towels, trash bags, detergent and Clorox. So off I went.
I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about sixteen years old. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize that I was there. This was when he waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, “Mommy, I’m over here.”
It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged and also startled as he turned and saw me standing so close to him, waiting to squeeze by. His eyes widened and surprise exploded on his face as I said, “Hey Buddy, what’s your name?”
“My name is Denny and I’m shopping with my mother,” he responded proudly.
“Wow,” I said, “that’s a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve.”
“Steve, like Stevarino?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered. “How old are you Denny?”
“How old am I now, Mommy?” he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle.
“You’re fifteen years old Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by.”
I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement, because he was the center of someone’s attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.
Denny’s mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn’t even look at him, much less talk to him.
I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God’s Garden; however, “Blue Roses” are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if someone doesn’t stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they’ve missed a blessing from God.
She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, “Who are you?”
Without thinking I said, “Oh, I’m probably just a dandelion, but I sure love living in God’s garden.”
She reached out, squeezed my hand and said, “God bless you!” and then I had tears in my eyes.
May I suggest, the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, whichever differences that person may have, don’t turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say hello. Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or any other family member. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or their family.
From an old dandelion! Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to the powers that be.
This perfectly describes the children I hung out with on that day. In a school where being “different” is the norm, these children, with widely varying levels of physical ability, are all contributors. I sat in a room with seven children, who can speak verbally, or use speech output devices, who can get around on their own, or use gait trainers, walkers, manual or electric wheelchairs. I met the most amazing little girl, who even at her young age, despite having limited control over her body, has learned to control her power wheelchair with head controls. I met kids who are savvier with technology than many adults. I met kids who have taught the adults how they communicate. This is a classroom where the kids are not just “doing time”—they are learning, and developing, and like the blue roses they are, they are blooming.
At lunchtime, we joined the rest of the children in the school gym. I had a complete conversation with a little guy who is nonverbal, sat with children who can feed themselves, or need to be fed…those who eat orally, or who use their tubes…and a special little girl who doesn’t eat at all. I met my daughter’s boyfriend, and her other boyfriend…and her other other boyfriend (yikes!!).
During the day, the children read and were read to, they learned science, social studies, math and language, they had floor playtime, did individual work, group work and some had therapy sessions. While it is very different, it is also very much like a regular primary classroom, and the ultimate goal for all of these children is to find and implement the tools that will allow them to unlock the immense potential they all hold.
None of this would be even remotely possible if not for the amazing team that works with them. I am in awe of the classroom teacher and the aide—I watched them navigate and program step-by-step communicators, speech output devices, troubleshoot computers, software and inputs, manage walkers, gait trainers, manual and power chairs. And still, classwork was done, lessons were taught, and the children were actively engaged in learning.
It would be insanely easy to plunk these kids in a chair and leave them there for the duration of the school day, but this school is not about what is “easy,” it is about what is “right.” I watched most of the children in the class on bench seating, on angled floor long sitters (custom made by the team in house), in their wheelchairs, gait trainers, walkers, on the floor or on beanbags for floor play. Each of them transitioned from one support to another repeatedly—one class member came into the classroom with her posterior walker, switched to a straddle bench for opening exercises, then to her power chair for the next activity. From there, she went into task seating, then back to her power chair for lunch, after lunch was free play on the floor on a mat, then into an angled long leg sitter for science, back to her manual chair for social studies, and her walker out to the door at the end of the day. This is normal for all of the children in the school, and with eight kids in my daughter’s class, you can well imagine how hard all of the staffers in the school work.
They don’t do it because they want to get rich, that is for sure. They do it because they can see the beauty in a blue rose. They look past the limitations; they look into the eyes of these children and see THEM. These children are not invisible; they are worth the work. They are bright, they are funny, they are tough…but above all, they are kids.
Say what you want about self-contained classes or schools, but for some, especially those who will clearly thrive with the support that a place like this can provide, they are a godsend…and we are blessed that they were sent our way.