Saturday

A few days ago I received an email from Dana Emery, the Children’s Events Coordinator at the Phoenixville YMCA; she was searching for volunteers to work with classes to promote inclusion, and to become buddies for children with special needs.

I immediately replied.

Last semester I took a course completely focused on inclusion, and had worked with special needs students in the past. Dana was excited to get a response, and mentioned that she was in need of someone to work one-on-one in a gymnastics class with seven year-old Jayden who has Autism, and is non-verbal.

I was so excited – not only was I going to be able to help this little boy, but how great would this look on a resumé? I am always looking for opportunities for childcare/education experience, so I jumped at the chance to volunteer.

This morning, I put on my YMCA staff shirt, and drove enthusiastically all the way to the Y, where I was going to meet with Dana and discuss what my main role was during the class. She asked me if I was volunteering for school hours, and I proudly answered, “No, I’m just interested in helping children with special needs.”

At this point I was definitely thinking, “How great am I?!”

Sometimes I feel like I have a movie projector in my head, and before I am thrown into unknown situations, the projector plays a glimpse of what will take place.

This particular movie portrayed me, the main character, as the beautiful heroine who steals the heart of this Autistic child, and helps him learn how to jump on a trampoline, and in a dramatic twist, Jayden smiles at me and begins to speak.

I would then be commended for my patience and kind heart, and I would be his buddy until he was able to be completely independent.

Obviously, none of this happened, or probably will ever happen. Jayden and his mother arrived 15 minutes late, and after introducing myself, we began our trek to the gymnasium. We never actually made it into the gymnastics class, but spent almost an hour trying to pry Jayden away from the (fortunately locked) doors to the pool. He loves to swim, and as soon as we passed the pool, he wanted to run and jump right in.

Jayden cried, and screamed, and after pulling me to the doors to see if I would open them, he became even more frustrated, and scratched and pushed me away.

Despite this long hour of trying to reason with a child who is non-verbal, and overall in a state of frustration, his mother was so patient, and so loving, and should really get an award for just being able to walk through the hallways of the Y without giving up on a boy that most would dismiss as ornery and hopeless.

As he was screaming at the doors to the pool, she took his face in her hands and quietly said, “Jayden is a smart boy, he is a good boy, and he makes his momma very proud.”

I had placed myself on such a high, self-centered pedestal, that I forgot that my role is minuscule compared to what his mother does every single day. I am sure that volunteering will in some way ease the stress of this amazing woman, but ultimately, she quickly became the heroine, and I was just the useless extra that is known as “Girl #2.”

I am sure there are days when she gets upset with Jayden, and cries out of frustration, and wishes that the life of her little boy could be completely different, but seeing this interaction between mother and son, even if just for an hour, made me want to cry because of my own vanity. I wanted to volunteer so that I could gain something, but this woman makes a daily choice to be patient, and puts his needs before her own so that her son will thrive and exceed the expectations that were placed on him the moment he was diagnosed.

In the past year, I have become more aware of the woman I want to aspire to be. I am inspired by my Advisor, Sheri Aspito, to be a teacher that is filled with the Holy Spirit, and prays over her classroom with strength and fervor. I am inspired by my adjunct professor, Lori Scheib, to pursue a career in Reading Instruction, and to be professional in all situations. And today, I was inspired by Jayden’s mother. What more can I say? For the past 20 minutes I have been trying to figure out a way to end this post, but I don’t quite know how. I suppose I will end with this:

“Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.” {Elif Shafak; “The Forty Rules of Love”}

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