“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14 NIV)
My two sons are all grown up now. They are 32 and 27 years old this year. Yet they both still have the minds of children. Autism has limited their intellectual growth over the years and they still need to be looked after 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When I was a boy the term used for people like my sons was Mentally Retarded. By the time I was an adult the term had switched to Mentally Handicapped. Later this was changed again to Mentally Challenged.
None of these terms truly defined them, however. They are so much more than these labels. These days the newest term is people with Special Needs. I like this one better than the older ones, because it is not only kinder but more accurate. My sons do have Special Needs but they also have Special Gifts. My oldest boy may only be able to talk about certain things. Autism has limited his learning and interests. But when he greets people by name there is a contagious happiness in his mood and manner. He gives out love and hugs far more freely than I do. And he always leaves the people he meets feeling better. My youngest boy doesn’t speak much at all. He is lost in his own world most of the time. Sometimes he even has fits where he will cry and hit himself. But he also has an ability for laughter and joy that is far beyond anything I possess. Often after he finishes crying his happiness will immediately return where I would be lost in a mood for hours. In truth my two Special Needs sons have taught me more about how to live and how to love than I could have ever learned on my own.
The fact is all of us in this life have Special Needs. All of us also have Special Gifts. It is up to us to share our Gifts. It is up to us to meet each other’s Needs. It is up to us to treat each other with kindness and love. Remember, we are all one family here. We are all Children of the same God.
Joseph J. Mazzella