Brevard County Parks and Recreation

I stood by the window observing the people who were gathering into the small waiting room.  Folding chairs had been moved into small groups of three and four.  People were greeting friends from all over our large county.  As usual, many of the people within the mentally challenged community had come early for the Brevard County Recreation Sweetheart Dance.  I had taken a small group to the big event  from Special Gathering’s annual trek to a local barbecue restaurant. 

We do an “I Love You, Jesus” celebration at a local restaurant the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.  We use the time to celebrate God’s love for us; and we talk about our relationship with our boyfriends or girlfriends.   Leaving the restaurant, we went directly to the County party.  We were an hour early.  It was too cold to walk the mall or sit in the van so we waited in the anti-room for the party to begin. 

As more and more people arrived, several companions and caregivers came into the room to visit with The Special Gathering members.  They hugged each other as old and dear friends. The hallways were crowded and uncomfortable and there were chairs in the room.  Therefore, it was soon filled with people waiting.  Many of them were dressed formally.  Others had on the familiar Florida formal attire, which means clean Levi’s.

Within our community, many professionals move from agency to agency.  Additionally, they often do private companion or respite care to help make ends meet.  Therefore, if one professional has worked in an agency, they will encounter people from the community again and again, even though they may no longer work with them directly.  This was the case at the dance.  Professionals and men and women who are mentally challenged greeted each other as old friends and dear relations.  Even though some of these men and women who make their living working within this community have their Master’s degrees, they continue to work long hours with lower pay because they genuinely love the people they serve.

Yesterday, I was proud to be a part of this community because of the love that was shared among all the people who gathered for the party.  I had listened that morning to a teaching by Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a native of India and an outstanding Christian apologist.  This is not a direct quote but Zacharias had said that we cannot truly be effective in the lives of a displaced people until they can get close enough to us to see the color of our eyes.

I understood the principle he was teaching.  I’ve attended lots of large churches; and there is an interesting trend among the pastors as their churches grow larger and larger.  They perfect the technique of walking through a crowded room without looking at anyone, without catching the eye of one single person.  I never blamed them or craved their attention.  As a family, we were always involved in small groups.  We actively served in the ministry of the local congregation.  We knew that we could get the attention of the pastors, if we needed help. 

Later, as the Valentine’s party slowly fizzled into a few couples savoring the last few minutes they would be allowed to hold each other.  I talked with friends and said good-bye.  Parents came to pick up their children.  Companions gathered up balloons and candy to assist the individuals they had transported.  Promises were made to see each other again…real soon.  The last farewells were mumbled as our members dragged their tired bodies to waiting vans and cars.

 I remembered the words of Dr. Zacharias.  The mentally challenged community is a group of people who are valued by the men and women who know them best–their families and the professionals who work with them.  Most of all, the Lord values them.  Yet, at times, it seems that the Christian community has not understood their true worth.  When we encounter a person who is developmentally disabled, how often do we make sure  that we walk purposely, insuring that they will never see the color of our eyes?     

Felicia and James live 50 miles from my home.  I only see them a few times a years.  As we hugged good-bye before they loaded into the van, I stopped for a moment to insure that they could see not only the color of my eyes but also the love in my eyes.

People First Reception

You are cordially invited to attend

People First of Brevard 

Legislative Reception


Friday, February 4, 2011

from 7pm to 9pm

at Indian River City United Methodist Church

1355 Cheney Hwy (Hwy 50)

Titusville, FL  32780


Funded by a Self-development of People grant fromt he Central Florida Perbytery and in coordination with the Special Needs Recreation program of Brevard County and with the help of Florida United Choice. 

Outside the lunch room at Camp Agape

Last Saturday, the Brevard County Recreation Department, South Sector, hosted a marvelous barbecue picnic for people with disabilities and their parents.  There was an ample surplus of food.  The day was warm with a soft summer breeze that refreshed everyone, except the cook, of course.  He was kept busy all day.  He was preparing the food, cooking the food, making up plates for people who wanted to take food home with them and finally cleaning up as the others disbursed.

After the wonderful barbecue and the paper plate mess had been thrown away, scrap papers picked up, and table wiped, my good friend, Marlo,  went up to the man who had cooked all day for the picnickers.  “Thank you so much.  I know how hard you worked today.” 

Marlo is a Special Gathering volunteer who is also a parent.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple people with developmental disabilities.  After the picnic, Marlo had helped clean up the mess along with Barbara Mitchell, the South Sector Director, and a couple of other people, including the cook. 

“Yes,” the cook said in response to her comment about his hard work.  Marlo had found out during the course of the day that the cook had also supplied most of the food.  This man is not a parent or a professional working within the mentally challenged community.  He is a volunteer who wanted to do something to help people with disabilities.  “It was my pleasure,” he continued, “but I don’t understand something.  You are the only person who came up to me to say thank you.”

Marlo’s questioned me later in the week, “Why do some people in the mentally challenged community have a sense of entitlement?  Can’t we see that the government and other people can’t do it all.  We must be able to do something for ourselves.  Can’t we see that because of our great need, we must have a great deal of gratefulness?  When did we become takers who aren’t thankful to all the people who give to us and then give again?”

Of course, I’ve seen the same thing.  Though I must say that I’ve never experienced this myself.  I am greatly appreciated by all my members and parents.  While probably 90 percent of people in the mentally challenged community are hard-working people who only want a job so they can pay their fair-share of taxes, there are some who have come to expect others to do for them.  This is not a good trend. 

I’ve seen over the years, that people will do anything for me, as long as I am grateful.  In fact, I’m the same way.  I’ll do and do, as long as I sense a grateful heart.  Yet, my gut grinds when I feel I’m being taken advantage.  

Please and thank you are still those charmingly old-fashioned words that open doors and tell the world that we are grateful for the help we receive.  What some ways you’ve learned to be grateful by your members?  What are a few things they do for you that show their gratitude?