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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6 responses to “Jason’s Different

  1. I can see this type of incident happening. There are so many ways the the people’s reaction could have gone, from nasty to compassionate. Children learn what they live. And in this scenario the children learned about a real-life problem and how to solve it for the benefit of everyone. Together they worked for a solution for all, not just for Jason or not excluding Jason. In al anon, Tradition One states: “Our common welfare comes first; personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity.” The lesson in this story is very relevant to today’s world in terms of our global society and tolerance and inclusiveness. We all need to read more stories like this.

    • I really appreciate your response. My focus had been on educating adults to widen their circle of care, but I don’t think it was as clear in my mind as you have made it now that it was a win for the children, not just in terms of comfort, but in learning to understand and help others. You’ve done what so many reviewers of my books have done–bring out things that were less of a focus in my thoughts. Thank you.

  2. This is a lovely story that a Christian magazine like HIghlights might take or are you thinking of developing it more, Margaret? We had a lovely young man with Down’s Syndrome at our Church for many years. He would show me his poetry which he wrote after helping his mother clean the church weekly. I made many of Terry’s poems into a book for him to give his mother. He was happy, being involved with cleaning and took pride in it.I often read a poem of his.He was close to God. I just edited them a bit.
    I tell you this because I can imagine a child being upset by children or people who look different. One boy in our parish was autistic and couldn’t speak. He was still nice but did not want to socialise.
    Children need to be exposed to these situations.
    I taught some children, considered slow, and found them the most loving children I ever taught. They also loved music and it helped me in many situations.
    You are a wise woman to deal with this subject. I will look up Dove’s nest. I think God made them so loving to help them cope and us too.
    Happy Easter.
    Jane

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. I have a 17 year old daughter with some mild learning disabilities and this story really resonates with me. She loves little children and often after church she’s playing with them or holding a little baby. The parents love it because they get to talk with their peers and they know their children are well taken care of when she’s around. Our staff at church this week was discussing how we can better educate our Sunday School Teachers with kids that are high functioning or have learning disabilities.

    • That’s lovely–thanks for sharing. I think that being a girl helps your daughter’s case–people are much more relaxed, I think, around girls who like to cuddle babies and toddlers than around boys who like little ones. And you’re there, too. “Jason” was on his own. Also, “Jason” was boisterous, as was the friend I knew long ago. Boisterous people can be hard to deal with anyway, and when that is added to a mental disability, there’s even more of a challenge to respond to them in a manner that honours our Creator. I’m glad your daughter has found a place in your church. My story was a plea, as I’m sure you realize, to accept the Jasons as they are created and to love them as they need to be loved.

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