I have on a new shirt

I have on a new shirt

I inquired casually, “Where’s Andrew?  I don’t remember seeing him this morning.”

His father commented,  “You probably didn’t recognize him.  He has on a new shirt.”  We both smiled.

In a few minutes, I saw Andrew standing near the door entertaining a couple of young women.  He was obviously pleased as peanuts.  “I was wondering where you were,” I told him.  “I didn’t remember seeing you, earlier.”

“You couldn’t recognize me because I have on a my new shirt.”  Andrew proudly puffed out his chest so I could better see his new acquisition.  Together we laughed. 

Don’t ask me why but this silly joke shared by Andrew and his father makes me smile every time I remember it.  Andrew is a member of Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We have one mission–the evangelizing and discipling people who are developmentally disabled.  Andrew began attending about a year before his mother died.  He is an outgoing, handsome young man who has held a job at Wal-Mart since he finished high school. 

After his mother’s funeral, Andrew’s sister approached me discreetly.  She asked me to try and involve their father in Special Gathering.  “He needs something else to do.  He has spoken about how much he appreciates all Special Gathering does for Andrew.”   

I invited him.  He came the next Sunday.  Now he and Andrew both attend but his father is a wise man.  Dad has several assigned tasks and he does them skillfully.  But he is careful to give his son a wide berth.  They don’t often meet during the program.  Andrew rides the bus.  His father comes later in his car.  Andrew sits in the front and Dad is far in the back.  Dad operates the elevator while Andrew walks up and down the stairs.  Dad sits in the front hallway monitoring the activities of the members; but Andrew attends his Bible study class in the back of the building.

It is almost like a graceful ballet this thoughtful father performs out of respect for the privacy of his son.  I’m not sure that Andrew will ever appreciate the efforts of his father.  For his dad delicately endeavors to maintain the dignity any father would give to his adult son.  I’ve seen this often from the parents of our members, struggling to oversee their children’s activities while still giving them space to grow and develop as adults.

The parents of children who have disabilities are a marvelous breed.  They share so much of their lives with their children and yet work hard to help them maintain dignified individuality.  Watching this father and son work and play together and apart, I’m reminded of what James wrote,

My brothers and sister, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.  Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do.  Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need (James 1:2-4).

What are some of the ways you have seen God work in simple ways through your members and their parents?  Are you a parent?  What are some of the ways to endeavor to maintain your adult child’s dignity?