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We Need to Talk


Slowly, she put down the kitchen towel she’d been using to dry dishes in our church kitchen and turned to face me, steeling herself for what was coming. She’d heard those words—we need to talk—so many times.

Her son struggled to fit in. Yes, he was probably somewhere on the spectrum, and kids often didn’t know what to do with him. As a result, he was too often on the fringes of the social dynamics, even in the generally safe cocoon of this homeschool co-op.

“Okay,” she smiled stiffly. As she turned to face me, her expression displayed some of the saddest resignation I’d ever seen. I instantly realized my mistake. And so I got right to correcting it.

“No, no, no—nothing bad,” I began quickly. “In fact, I wanted to share with you how bright I think he is, how perhaps more than any of the other students in my class, he really gets the concepts. He’s wonderfully engaged in the process. In the end, what I’m saying is he’s a delight to have in class.”

What happened next?

She cried.

Right there in the kitchen, her eyes filled with tears. Many times in the past, she’d been stopped in the hall or called out for a little chat. And the chat that typically followed shared the latest problem or challenge in need of remedy. I knew this. I had a child with similar issues. And more than once I had to listen to a new person telling me of a new problem requiring a new action.

More than once I had to hear . . .
one more way my child was struggling.
one more thing he’d done wrong.
one more thing that set him apart.
one more reason for me to feel I was failing.
one more time for my heart to ache for this son and his ongoing struggles.

Like me, this mom loved her child with a fierce momma-bear kind of love. But very often, she was alone in seeing his value.

But I know a secret. I’ll bet you do too.

Every child has value.

Every child, whether or not they conform to the common standard of the “easy” or “good” child, has God-given strengths that are perfectly suited for something, something in God’s plan designed for this precious child, something which other more typical children could never achieve. And I would suggest that maybe one of the most holy things we can do is to share with a mom or dad just what we think those great qualities are. To help them see this child with God’s vision.

So on this day, I had the heavenly privilege of bearing some good news, some things I enjoyed about her unique child. And it touched a mom’s heart in its softest spot.

The “random acts of kindness” concept has been around for a while, with a valuable message behind it. But today, I challenge you to reach out in a way that’s not so random. Reach out to that mom whose child is often misunderstood, or exists on the fringes of the group. Stop and think about this kid. There is always something good to share. And it’s not random — it’s God’s plan at work, making sure the hand is not the eye, and the foot is not the head. Many different things make up the body (I Corinthians 12: 12-26), all with a purpose.

Look for the good in this kid. Seek it out. Then seek out mom or dad. Let them know that they’re not the only ones to see good things in this precious child. Consider it a mission field. Be God’s messenger, sharing an awareness of the on-board wonderfulness in each child, especially those others often see as challenging.

Give a mom the gift of hearing good of her child.

Carol Barnier is a homeschooler, author of four books, mother to three grown children. She’s a popular humorist who has frequented Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine radio program. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that on most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato.

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