Jason’s Different

This post is different from others in that it isn’t specifically about my grandchildren–but it could be. I’ve been thinking about parents’ responsibility to protect their children from adults who might harm them, and also to teach them how to cope with unpleasant people and situations. But do we also have a wider responsibility? What about adults and older children who make others uncomfortable because they themselves have some sort of disability? Years ago I was friends with a young man who had a mild mental disability, and sometimes got himself into trouble because he didn’t pick up on nuances.

In this story I explore how a church or community might deal with a young man whose mental disability and resulting poor social skills get him into hot water with parents. I then approached Dove’s Nest, an organization that seeks to “empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities.” They liked the story, and agreed to provide a link to it in their newsletter.

I’d be interested to hear what you think of the story, and encourage you to explore the Dove’s Nest website for more information on protecting children.

Jason’s Different

“I don’t like Jason,” fumed Marcy on the way home from church. “He wants to hug me all the time.”

“Did you ask him to stop?” asked Mom.

“Yes, but he just laughs!” Marcy’s face clouded. “I wish he didn’t come to our church.”

Mom looked sad. “I understand, sweetheart. Let’s talk about it when we get home.”

Both Mom and Marcy’s big brother, Darren, enjoyed their tuna sandwiches and mushroom soup. But Marcy didn’t feel like eating. Darren talked about the youth retreat, but Marcy didn’t feel much like talking, either.

“We need to talk about Jason,” said Mom.

“I don’t like him! He always wants to play with us, and then he catches us and hugs us!”

“Darren, can you watch Marcy after church from now on?” asked Mom. “Of course you can talk with your friends, but just keep an eye on Marcy. If you see Jason coming over for a hug, take Marcy’s hand and walk away with her.”

“I’ll do more than that!” Darren growled.

“No, no,” said Mom. “Jason doesn’t mean any harm. He just has trouble understanding some things. He can’t read the way you can, Darren, and he can’t remember things the way you can remember them, Marcy. Some of the parents have talked to Jason about hugging the little kids. He says he’s sorry, but then he does it again. So I’m going to talk to Pastor Ben.”

Later that week Pastor Ben met with the parents of the little kids.

“I know Jason would never hurt a child on purpose,” Marcy and Darren’s mom said, “but he’s making Marcy uncomfortable. It’s getting so that she doesn’t want to come to church.”

“And he keeps giving Emma candy,” added Mrs. Fair. “I’ve told him not to, and I’ve said it spoils her dinner, but he just does it anyway.”

“I don’t like him around Robbie,” said Mr. Jones. “He keeps wanting to hold him, and Robbie wants to run and play. And he thinks it’s funny when Robbie cries and tries to get away.”

Pastor Ben listened carefully and made notes. Then he said, “Now that we’re clear on the problem, how can we keep the children comfortable and still help Jason?”

“Maybe he should go to the church down the street,” suggested Mrs. Jones. “There are mostly older people there.”

“I don’t think we should suggest that,” said Marcy and Darren’s mom. “That would really hurt Jason. There must be something we can do to help him fit in better here. What are his strengths?”

“Well, he’s friendly. He does love people and he loves to help,” said Mrs. Jones.

Then the grown-ups had a lot of good ideas.

“We pick Jason up every Sunday morning,” said Mr. Fair. “Maybe I’ll see if he wants to come early and help me shovel the sidewalk. It’s supposed to snow. Emma can come later with her mom.”

“And he can help me clean up the coffee cups after the service,” volunteered Marcy and Darren’s dad. “That’s when Jason seems to have most of his problems.”

“He’s been coming out to shinny hockey for the past couple of months,” said Mr. Schultz, “and we usually go out for coffee after. I’ll try to talk to him then about not playing with the little kids.”

“I’ll talk to him, too,” said Pastor Ben. “He’s coming with me to the seniors’ lodge on Thursday.”

That night, Mom and Dad told Marcy and Darren about the meeting. “I want to help too,” said Marcy. “God wants us to love everybody, right?”

“Yes, He does,” smiled Mom.

“I can help, too,” offered Darren.

The family prayed and talked. How could they all help Jason?

“I’ll make him some cookies and put sprinkles on,” said Marcy happily.

“And we can both give them to Jason on Sunday,” added Darren.

“You know,” said Mom, “part of Jason’s problem is that he’s lonely. Let’s invite him to Marcy’s school concert.”

“Sure,” said Darren. “And I’ll sit with him in the back of the van.”

Now, if you went to the Good Shepherd Community Church after that, you might see Jason pouring Pastor Ben’s coffee after the service. Or talking with the men about hockey.

Problem solved?

Maybe.

Or maybe not.

One Sunday morning Mr. Jones heard a loud scream from Robbie, and he looked over to see Jason holding the howling little boy.

Mr. Jones snatched his son away from Jason and held the little boy close, glaring at Jason—until Pastor Ben came running.

“I saw what happened,” Pastor Ben said. “Robbie fell down the stairs and Jason picked him up. Thank you, Jason.”

Then Jason started to cry. “I know I’m not supposed to play with the little kids any more,” he sobbed, “but I didn’t think this was playing.”

“And you’re right, it wasn’t,” said Mr. Jones kindly. “You weren’t playing with Robbie, you were helping him. I was wrong. I’m sorry, Jason.”

Jason never did learn what the word “boundaries” meant, but he did learn what he should and shouldn’t do.

And he knew he belonged at Pastor Ben’s church.

“…you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28b, New International Version)

To learn about my books for children, please visit my Amazon page, website and writing blog.

 

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Eliana

eliana-summer-2016

I love spending time with Tina and two of her amazing answers to prayer. After Katie Kat disappeared one fine day, Tina prayed and prayed for her return–even when her “sensible” grandma’s prayers had changed to petitions for either a quick passing or a good home somewhere for the beloved pet. Then one day, months after Katie Kat’s disappearance, Tina’s mom spotted a little gray cat in the window of a house down the street and brought her well cared for kitty back home.

Both Tina and her mom yearned for another child to share their home–a brother or sister for Tina. Then May‘s birth sister, just over a year old, came up for adoption. Cared for by the same loving foster mom who taught May that the world is a safe and happy place for children,  Eliana is a joyful, easygoing child. She takes great pleasure in snuggling with her mom, climbing just about anything, playing peek-a-boo, and “working” in her little kitchen.

To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought of 1  1/2-year-olds making plans until I went into Eliana’s room after her nap and found her sitting up, blanket positioned over her face. She’d heard me coming, and was ready to play peek-a-boo with Grandma.

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What does the future hold for this beloved child? We don’t know, of course, but knowing that she’s an answer to prayer gives us comfort and hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

From Songster to Flag Girl

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No longer so reluctant to turn in for the night, two-year-old May often goes to bed happily with bursts of song.

But on Sunday she became a flag dancer as well as a nightingale. Tommy, May and I sit at the front during the worship service. There’s a lot going on–people and instruments on the platform, words on the screen, and often flag dancers as well. Today there was one flag dancer, and she came over and offered us flags. I chose shimmering turquoise for May and me, and May waved her flag during the entire worship service.

During Meet and Greet time, May and I shook hands with others nearby. Tommy caught sight of his older friend and raced up to the balcony to greet him.

How can I describe my feelings?  I rejoiced that my little granddaughter was so utterly cherished as the flag lady told her Jesus loved to see her flagging.

And Tommy? Tommy knows he belongs. He belongs with his Sunday School teacher and pastor, with his older friend, with the others who welcome him on Sunday mornings, and with his uncle, whom he sometimes helps in the sound booth.

… Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and don’t try to stop them! People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom.” Matthew 19:14 (Contemporary English Version) 

 

 

Saving the Dinosaurs from Extinction

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You knew, of course, that dinosaurs were on the endangered list. No? Really?

Check out Tina’s Dino Egg Lab–nesting areas, staff, an elevator, and even an aquarium–standard issue for rescue parks. And this, folks, is the only one of its kind. There are no dinos left in the wild (that’s why you haven’t seen any), and this is the world’s only dino hatching facility.

God must have had fun when He made the world, I often tell Tina. As we make art (always under her direction), I feel her joy in creativity, and imagine that we are catching a glimpse of the joy the Master Creator experienced at the dawn of time. For do we not, although corrupted, still bear the mark of His image?

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (New International Version)

 

Premie Poetry: Ode to a Baby Granddaughter

newborn

You’re ever so tiny, impossibly cute,

Utterly miniature, very astute.

You know when it’s dinner; you know when it’s snack.

You’d charm the shirt right off a car salesman’s back.

We love you with all of your sweet winning ways,

And we know that we’ll love you for all of our days.

But always remember that God loves you more

From before you were born until forever more.

starry night

Joy in the Journey–A Battle-Scarred Fox and the Thrill of Creativity

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“Which one do you think Grandma made?’ asks my crafty granddaughter. She shows her mom the two fox corner bookmarks you see on the Ellie and Harry books.  Close scrutiny will reveal that Ellie’s fox has lovely, uniform ears. Those on Harry’s fox, on the other hand, show evidence of battle–either the fox has been in a tussle, or its crafter is folding-challenged.

Maria, in an act of kindness or perhaps a momentary lapse of memory (“What? My mom a klutz? Really?”), incorrectly guesses that I made the fox with the matching ears . . . .

and therein lies the message of the day.

Not only am I talent-free, I’m also clumsy–and that in no way eliminates me from a bright, happy morning of art activity with Tina. With the day off school and only a few tasks that need to be completed, Tina comes up with the idea of making bookmarks.

We check out YouTube videos and come up with some real winners. The instructors demonstrate EVERYTHING–neat folding (sorry, no can do), drawing lightly in pencil, and even erasing the pencil lines with your choice of two kinds of eraser.

What fun Tina and I have making the bookmarks and setting up the display for our photo shoot!

Tina’s next project–her very own craft video.

Our happy morning reminds me that Tina recently won a story contest. She might have won anyway, but the fact that hers was the only entry sealed the deal :).

Sometimes, as in the case of the klutzy grandma who had a wonderful morning and the prize-winning storygirl, all it takes to win is to show up and make an effort.

effort

This Doctor Thought She’d Seen It All

Parents today are probably the most informed and involved generation in history. And, yet, in the company of their children, they often act as though they’d rather be someplace else. That’s what they’re saying when they break eye contact to glance at their push notifications or check Facebook when they think their child’s distracted. The parents are present, their attention is not.

In my practice, I see evidence every day of how such inattention affects kids. ~Pediatrician Jane Scott

Disturbing indeed: a pediatrician who thought she’d seen it all reports a two-year-old with infected ears turning to Siri on his cell phone–rather than his dad beside him–for info. Although, I gather it didn’t bother Dad too much–he was busy on his phone as well.

earache

Eight-year-old Tommy loves electronics (and his mother wisely restricts his time on them). Nine-year-old Tina uses, rather than loves, gadgets. But both of them are also highly responsive and aware of the needs and feelings of others. They have solid relationships with the people around them. So does two-year-old May.

kindness flowers

On the other hand, I recently heard of a young man whose hands are permanently disfigured from using joysticks (he’s still playing).

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And I remember reading of a kind of detox program in another country. Although the prognosis for a cure to game addiction was poor, therapists were using physical action figures to try to wean addicts away from the screen.

playing games

And that gets me thinking. It appears that electronics are here to stay. Some groups prohibit their use altogether.

Mennonites

Tommy’s and Tina’s moms have opted for teaching sensible use, like watching these French stories on YouTube.

Rosa

Rosa Goes to the City

It looks like parents and other caregivers need to decide on a plan before vulnerable children become socially impaired and/or addicted.

What do you think? Do you agree that this is a cause for concern? If so, do you have suggestions?