In light of the story on yesterday's post, I was prompted to reflect on what special needs individuals can teach us. So often, they are the ones who give us insight into what living is truly about. Here are a few lessons I have learned from those with special needs:
- You are only as limited as you choose to think. To many special needs individuals, their so-called "disability" really becomes another form of ability. While most cannot move, think, or act in quite the same manner as the rest of us, they look for ways to give to the world in much the same way as we do. They are fueled by the same desire for fulfillment and success and want just as badly to contribute to life as others. Anything is possible to them. They don't let their challenges hold them back. They believe that they can achieve anything they want to do. Failure doesn't occur to them - their success comes in trying. Perhaps this is why we love things like the Special Olympics. For many, the victory has already come in overcoming their limitations.
- You have the capacity to love ANYONE! Special needs people seem to have been given an incredible capacity to love. They just accept people for who they are. They seem to be free from all of the issues that hinder us from loving. A judgmental-free life allows you to love with open arms.
- Life is a beautiful thing. Because many special needs individuals do not know the pressing problems and stresses that we do, they have this view that life and all that's in it is a beautiful thing. They will cheer on anyone for anything. They will get excited about even the smallest of things. To them, life is not about solving problems but experiencing a beautiful reality. They see the world in very simple, yet meaningful terms. They appreciate all that is happy and good.
- Make empathy a life-long habit. People with these limitations seem to also have a God-given ability to sympathize with the hurts of others. Perhaps because they understand what it's like to face challenges, they are able to offer a unique form of comfort to those in need. Even though we all feel badly when someone goes through hard times, the disabled almost appear to be more troubled when another is in pain. They will be one of the first to try to lift your spirits when you are down, to tell you things will get better. For them, empathy is a life-long habit. When the chips are down, there is no one better to have on your side than one of them.
- Don't take yourself too seriously. Special needs individuals are known for their sense of humor, especially their ability to laugh at themselves or their circumstances. Often, their notorious way of poking fun at their limitations has a delightfully disarming affect. They maintain a healthy attitude by finding something to smile about, even in the most difficult situations. This cheerful determination carries them through their challenges and helps them to keep going.
There are so many other ways in which these individuals teach us about living. Every time I come in contact with one of these special people, I walk away wondering, " Where would the world be without their beautiful perspective?" Each person, abled or disabled, is unique and special to God. And I often ask Him if He doesn't hold these challenged people close to His heart. These are the ones who make our burdens a little lighter by their smile, who make us laugh a little harder by their jokes and wit, who make us slow down and care a little more by their sensitive manner. People like this can offer us so much if we are willing to let them. By having such people in our lives, we will all be the richer, the better, for it.