When the ordinary is extraordinary

Last night as I sat and watched a Christmas concert at the same school that four generations of my family have attended, I was struck with a sense of awe that something so ordinary was actually quite exceptional.  

Two Christmas's ago, we were preparing for our trip to China. The past two years have been challenging, wonderful, mundane, stretching, and incredible.  Both ordinary and extraordinary.  

Two years ago we adopted a child that was considered worthless, at least by a culture in general.  In his 6 years he was abandoned as a toddler, found by police, lived in two different institutions, and lived with multiple foster parents (whom I thank God for!).  In his most recent institution he was classified as "bed ridden" and remained in a crib night and day.  The short bars of the crib where walls of his cage.  He watched other children, who could walk, wander around and even go outside. I know now how much he internalized that.  He is so very aware that his body just doesn't do what he wants it to do, and he is extremely aware when he is treated differently because of that.  Hyper aware even. I've listened to many heart wrenching, tear filled, rages that eventually come back to him screaming things like "I can't walk!" "I have bad feet!" "I hate my hand!""bad guys come and I can't run away!".

   He was viewed as defective and treated as something without value by so many.  Inside a little boys heart that turned into a deep self loathing.  He also has an enormous amount of fear and a perpetual hyper-vigilance.  He has not yet realized that we will never ever abandon him.  We assure him of that truth daily, but still, the fear is there.  Just this week, after his first trip to Costco with Mom and Dad, he had a melt down/ panic attack in the parking lot.  Complete with retching, shaking, and sobbing.  I noticed he looked pale and somber while we shopped but it wasn't until after his meltdown, when he found his words, that I understood just how terrified he had been.  Even after two years of us assuring him through our actions and words that we would always be his parents he thought this might be the place where we leave him, or the ever present "bad guys" might finally find him.  As we drove home afterwards he asked for constant reassurance, and then when we pulled up into our little town he looked like the weight of the world was taken from his shoulders, like he was honestly surprised that we had brought him back home.  He thanked us over and over for bringing him back home again.  He was convinced Mom and Dad had taken him to the City to leave him there( when in fact it was for various therapy appointments).  The reality of that fear is heartbreaking.

Two years ago we pursued a child who could not walk.  We had hopes that he would be able to walk with assistance but we didn't dream that he would become and independent walker and be able to stand unassisted.  We chose a child who had quite severe developmental delays, although we had very little idea (and still don't) what that will mean as time goes on. 

He was considered unadoptable by many...and an unlikely choice by most.  Even our guide in China asked us "didn't they have any better kids for you?" Basically, "how did you get stuck with him?".  Various people in Canada have asked us the same thing...although with a distinctly Canadian sort of tact and veiled in polite conversation. While in his home country we witnessed the stares aimed at him, and the looks of disgust.  We endured it with him for only a short while.  He endured those sneering glances, and long awkward stares for years.  He was told by words, actions, glances, and body language, time and time again that he did not belong.  He was not worth it.  

So last night as I sat in the front row, holding my camera, watching an elementary school Christmas concert I was watching something spectacular.  So spectacular that it was completely ordinary.  

I watched my son stand unassisted in the front row for multiple songs.  He beamed as he did the actions, caught as many words as he could, followed the teachers promptings like a hawk, and gave me a thumbs up.  I could see how hard he was working just to keep his balance.  I knew his feet were hurting after an already long day of school. 

For the first time in his life I witnessed him just be one of the pack.  He completely blended in.  He was just a kid.  Not a kid with equipment.  Not a kid with a disability.  Not a child adopted from China.  Not the kid who is three years older than his classmates. Just him.  Just a kid waving at his very own Mom and Dad and singing about Santa. 

I was so thrilled for him!

He stood bravely on stage, in front of rows filled with people, and did exactly what he was supposed to do.

I don't know that I have ever been more proud.

His teachers and the other children at the school have been so great.

One thing parents of kids with special needs know is that moments of "ordinary" are completely extraordinary.

This week as we visited a centre dedicated to serving children like Elijah and were assessed by very kind professionals and therapists, I realized again that we are so very fortunate to live where we do.  We have so many resources available, and there are so many people who want to see him thrive and reach his absolute fullest potential.  In so many other countries, people with disabilities are treated so poorly.  Families are left with no resources and are often encouraged to abandon the child. He could have lived his life within the bars of an cold, harsh, institution.  He could have ended up being used as a prop by someone who would exploit him, being made to sit on a dirty sidewalk and beg for pocket change.  He might have never learned to walk, or known secure love.

But. God.

This was just another huge reminder that his story is being rewritten.
Those hard things are being redeemed.

Bite me "Bed Ridden".  
There's no holding this boy back.


Jenn @Treasuring Lifes Blessings said...

Simply amazing!!! Thanks so much for sharing!! Go God!!

Bobbi Junior said...

I work for a foster care agency. Thank you for acknowledging the foster homes who kept your Elijah safe until he found you as his forever home! Sometimes it takes a village to bring a child 'home'. Thank you for sharing Elijah's story.