Monday, October 17, 2016

Most People (Still) Mean Well

Warning: this is a super-long post. I totally understand if you don't have the time. But, if you decide to stick it out, I'm gonna teach you the power of 4 words that will change your life. Not just with my situation with Joshua. They can also help you with other situations in your life. Learn from my mistakes, and save yourself a lot of grief. The four words are: MOST PEOPLE MEAN WELL.

After I had Joshua, I cannot even TELL you the comments that came my way. The people who made them were completely innocent of any malice (usually), but that doesn't mean their words didn't hurt.

There was the older family member who, after Joshua was born, told us that he remembered a family around where he lived who "had one of THOSE," and how they "KEPT HIM IN A BACK ROOM" at their house.

ARE you kidding me?

There was the older woman at my local Wal-Marks who came up to me and said, "he's not RIGHT, is he?" Joshua was about 6 weeks old at the time. I was IN.LOVE.WITH.HIM. I had dressed him up in a cute outfit. I remember he was wearing the cutest little cloth sandals. I think I still have them somewhere. And he had this full head of hair that stuck straight up in the air. But, at this time, Joshua's skin color was very gray. This was before he was strong enough to have his heart surgery. He was thin and weak...and gray. But I loved him with all my heart. I was already extremely concerned about his upcoming heart surgery, and so with this woman's question, I felt all of my protective mama bear reactions coming to a boil. Instead, I took a deep breath and looked into the concerned eyes of the little old woman. And I bit my lip to keep the tears from falling. And I said, "no ma'am...he's not right.'"

Because she was old school. And because she was genuinely concerned. And because if it's my desire to educate others about people like Joshua...and if I feel it's a ministry God has given me, to show that "God don't make no junk," then I need to be careful in my response. It might have given me some righteous vindication to tell this lady off, but really...what would it accomplish?

We have had great medical care for Joshua during his life. I just cannot say enough good things about the nurses, technicians, therapists and physicians who have watched over and monitored him. And our own Arkansas' Children's Hospital is the BEST! In Joshua's early days and weeks, he was hospitalized several times. When he was finally able to have his heart surgery, he was 3 months old. And so he was admitted to ACH two days before for pre-op procedures, and he was assigned a "team" who would follow him throughout the process. We had a head physician, a resident or two, and several medical students. Because ACH is a teaching hospital, we were asked the same questions over and over by different people...and had many med students come in to talk to us, and to meet and examine Joshua. It was during one of these sessions when I was one-on-one with a resident on Joshua's team. She was asking me about my prenatal care, my family history, and what prenatal testing I'd had. When I told her that because of my age (26), and the fact that it was my first pregnancy, I hadn't really had any type of testing done. I hadn't asked for them, and, at that time, they weren't routinely prescribed. Then she said this: "I guess if you had known [that Joshua had Down Syndrome] in advance, you COULD'VE DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT." About IT. About HIM.

I don't remember what exactly I said, but this is a situation that...for me...did require a response. I just remember afterwards, I was so upset that I was shaking. I had her removed from Joshua's case immediately. This was a situation I could not file in my "most people mean well" box. Sometimes you DO have to speak up. Regardless of her personal beliefs, or if she was maybe trying to put herself in my situation, she should not have said it. My child was fixin' to have a very serious surgery. I had to know that everyone on his team was ON HIS TEAM; that they were seeing him as a child, not just as a child with a disability; that they ALL thought he was worth it.

There have been some funny comments along the way, too. Like the elderly nursery worker who told me Joshua "wasn't half bad." (Jim and I joked on the way home...wondering what "half" of him she was talking about!) And the other lady who told me that Joshua was so cute and smart, he must "just have a touch of it [Down Syndrome]." Isn't that funny?!

And there were some comments that, even tho they hurt my feelings...and I obviously remember them to this day...were too ridiculous to even bother to respond. Like the lady from church who told me that Joshua "ruined" her video of her daughter during the Children's Christmas Program. Joshua was pretty young...6-8 years old, maybe? He was standing near or beside this lady's daughter, and apparently was "incapable of standing completely still." Seems his animated facial expressions distracted her from filming her child. You would think that CHURCH would be the last place where you'd hear stuff like this,

There was the lady at WM (again with the Wal-Marks...I'm sensing a pattern!) who randomly came up to me and told me all about her brother who had DS, and asked if we had considered putting Joshua in a "home." And while I do not judge what anyone does when it comes to long-term care of their own family members, because who knows what the future holds for any of us, not gonna lie...this one rubbed me the wrong way. I told her I was very sorry about her brother, but Joshua already had a home...OURS. Argh. And did I mention that Joshua was standing there with me the whole time?

Oh, I've got TONS more, but somewhere along the line, God reminded me of GRACE...and He gave me this mantra: MOST PEOPLE MEAN WELL.

And they really do.

And they want to help.

They just get nervous and feel like they need to fill the air with...something.

And faced with a tragedy, or a loss, or in an unfamiliar situation...people are gonna say the wrong things. They just are. Haven't you?

I have.

How about "well, you can always try again," to someone who has just lost a baby by miscarriage? Or, "there was probably something wrong with that baby, wouldn't want that." Or, "God must've needed another angel up in Heaven?" Seriously?

When my Mom died unexpectedly of a heart attack, I heard: "well, she's in a better place." What I WANTED to say was, "how 'bout I send you to join her?" (just kidding) (no, really) And I heard, "God must've needed her beautiful voice up in Heaven." Really? God made her, and He gave her that beautiful voice to begin with...and if He needed a beautiful voice, He could've made himself another person with a beautiful voice right then and there. And then there are the Scripture references and all the "churchy" things we all like to say: "God has ordained our days, so her job on earth was done!" "God's ways are perfect!" "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones."


I've heard all of these...and more. I've even SAID some of them, and I know from experience they aren't what you want to hear at the time.

Or maybe that's just me.

They are all good and right things, and things I already knew in my heart. But I was not ready to hear them. I KNOW my Mom is in a better place, but I miss her here...and oh, how I wish I could hear her sing I wish my children could know what a beautiful voice she had. I am thankful she did not suffer here on earth, but her death was so sudden. I was not prepared to be without her. And I know God is in control. I know He has ordered our days and that nothing comes as a surprise to Him. I know this world is not our home, and that she is in her Heavenly home, forever, with Jesus.

But I miss her.

So then...what to say?

God bless the friends who held me and simply said, "I'm sorry." Or, "this is so hard." Or, "I know you miss her." And the friends who still remember my loss with a card or a call, or who still ask about her 18 years later; who tell me how much she would've loved this or proud she would've been of her much she loved us all.

Most people mean well. Show them GRACE. Relax. They are trying to reach out out to you in their own way. If you snap back, you may lost an opportunity to show God's love to them...or to accept God's love FROM them. And day you might be the one who says the wrong thing at the wrong time, or the right thing at the wrong time...because you are just trying to help...or because you are trying to make things better. And you hope that they get that message, even if you bungle up the words. And you hope they know that you mean well.

Most people do.

"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:6

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