Looking Past the Disability…gifts and talents

***This will be one of several pieces on lessons that I am learning from Jie Jie, one of my TCKs.

Disability. Handicap. Special Needs. Special Ed.  Words that just don’t tend to flow off the tip of one’s tongue easily when talking about a loved one or someone else’s loved one. I find that people (some, not all) feel uncomfortable using these words, especially around me. A mother to a mentally handicapped daughter. Hey, even I feel uncomfortable using those words to describe one of my most treasured gifts given to me. They are NOT pleasant words. They don’t bring encouragement or happy feelings, but they are real and can’t be overlooked.

My daughter is a three year old trapped in the body of an eight year old. Trapped is probably not the word that she would use. If she could communicate, I believe she’d tell me it is “Great!”  I mean, what three year old wouldn’t love to have the height to reach the cereal box to sneak a snack when mommy isn’t looking? I know she does. She doesn’t tell me in words. That smile of success, those squeals of joy complimented with the beat of hand clapping is enough for anyone to know she is quite satisfied with life.

Over the years she has been teaching me much about life, about giving, and about love. Every once in awhile, I’ll share it with you. Today is one of those days. This lesson is something I knew to be true in my head, but to really see it makes has made me know it and believe it to be true.

This lesson? That each person possesses a gift or a talent that just naturally flows from them. It maybe something that everyone notices like being athletic or joyful. Or something that is not noticed like discernment. Some may label these “gifts” as personality traits, unique qualities, or rather just a person’s nature. Maybe this is true, but I think it is more than just that. As a Christian, I believe we’ve all been given some sort of gift or talent that is to be used for God’s glory. 

Even people with disabilities.

My daughter? I see compassion and hospitality naturally flow from her personality. It isn’t a lesson I’ve taught or even really intentionally tried to teach. It is just something she naturally does.

Compassion. She cares for her stuffed German Shepherd, Shrek. She pets him, watches TV with him and tries to feed him real food when I’m not paying attention. She’s very caring for her baby dolls, making sure they are rocked and loved. Many days I’ll be handed the “baby” and a blanket. As I swaddle this doll again and again, Jie Jie signs for me to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  And lately, I’ve seen her compassion for those hurting. One day I saw her facial expression soften as she squatted down beside another little girl that had just fallen down. Jie Jie patted the injured girl and rubbed her back until the girl felt better. She didn’t needs words to be compassionate. She didn’t need a band-aide. She was just compassionate to care and give.

Hospitality. This one just came to me right after Christmas. I have noticed that any time someone comes over for a meal or coffee, that Jie Jie always runs to her room and grabs either a book or a toy. At first, I thought she wanted our guest to read or play with her, but then I realized that after she handed off the item she would turn around and jump up and down with either a squeal or come and give me a hug. I feel like she wanted them to feel welcomed, to have something “fun” to do while they were visiting. To her just sitting and chatting is not so fun, I guess.

Now that I’ve noticed these gifts I want to help her use them more. I want to create opportunities where she can practice these gifts. I want to show her how to be gentle with my friends’ babies. I want to show her more ways to be hospitable in our home when guests come over. I want her to grow and develop in these areas that seem to be natural and in a way, easy for her.

Your turn: What gifts have you noticed in your children, whether they be special needs children or not? How have you helped them grow in those gifts? Have you ever thought about this kind of training? Please comment below.