Little Children

Halloween is an event in our neighborhood.  Kids come from all over the community, and many from neighboring towns.  I love sitting in front of my house and playing at being a "fortune teller" telling everyone that I "see candy in your future."

About an hour into the Halloween extravaganza, a sweet little angel toddled up to my chair and the candy.  She had Down Syndrome, and gleefully plunged her chubby little hand into the candy bowl.  Kenny and I smiled at her - she was a darling - but her dad hurried up apologizing "I'm sorry…" and urging her away.

You wouldn't have heard an "I'm sorry" from the parent of a "normal" toddler, but somehow parents of special needs kids feel the urge to apologize for the intrusion.  I know I sometimes felt that pull to make amends for a perceived insult - as though my child's mere existence was an insult - but I tried to stifle that tendency.

We told that dad that there was no need to apologize, but I am sure that he felt we were being nice.  We weren't. We genuinely were happy that his little angel came out to participate.

Those around us who are "special needs" are people who can humble us and teach us about love.  I remember seeing a father once who was embarrassed by his little girl, who was developmentally delayed.  He apologized, too.  He held her in his lap, discouraging her from getting down and interacting with people. Her response?  She raised a little hand and patted his face as though to say that she understood and loved him in spite of his embarrassment.

I thought later about Jesus, and how he said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  The disciples were apologizing for the intrusion, but Jesus felt only joy.  This at last was the kingdom of heaven on earth.  These little ones were open and vulnerable.   Little children teach us that love is fierce and unrestrained.  They love us in spite of ourselves, and forgive us for all the times we diminish them by apologizing for the intrusion.  Our special needs children are gifts from God like any other child, "fearfully and wonderfully made."  They require us to look beyond the surface to what is underneath, and to love deeply, to love honestly and without reservation.

Let the little children come…they have heaven in their hearts.


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