Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Being ... not ... Doing
He would never be measured by the accumulated credits for what he would do in life. His would not be an achievement quantified path. Those who were to take note of him would not speak of the Stuff he had done; the Creditentials he garnered; the Degrees, Titles, or Ranks he had tallied up. No, my son’s life was to be recognized for one … only one … thing. Who he was to be … not what … as that individual Person that he was created to be. This was to be my focus and the core of my parenting efforts for as long as I had the opportunity to influence him. And it was to become my life’s mantra. It is who we be … not what we do … that matters in life. (I know … the grammar stinks … but you get the point!) If we be the best that we can be … no one on the face of this planet can ever be better. This is the path that Matthew and I set out on together. Setting aside all of the cerebral palsy baggage … we would set our sights on being our best … us.
So when the young man came up to me in the coffee shop and said “I noticed that Matt really likes to read the newspaper every morning. So I gave him the novel that I finished reading last night. I told him that he will probably finish it more quickly than I did, because he reads so much. I hope that he enjoys it as much as I did.” I smiled and took silent note of the beautiful way that Matt had disregarded the fact that he couldn’t read. He pushed aside that potential barrier to social interaction … by creating the illusion that he was an ardent reader. Thus he fine-tuned his performance of all of the subtle gestures and mannerisms that he had gleaned from observing the behaviors of those who did read the newspaper. And I had, for some time, watched his beautifully played-out role as he “thoughtfully” turned the thoroughly considered pages. He artfully picked out comic strips and used them as props to share with others … pointing; throwing his head back in laughter; and enjoying the ensuing comradeship with the Strangers he met as he sat at the al fresco tables outside the shop that I sat inside of. (Please note that Matt’s mental challenges do not permit his grasping of the humor in those comics strips … even when read and explained to him.)
This was but one of the daily exercises that I devised for him (without making any note of it … just treating it as a routine, customary, and altogether normal happening.) He sat outside … at a table of his choosing, and enjoying his choice of beverage and pastry … and introduced himself to whatever level of social interplay he was comfortable with. I observed; took mental notes for discussion with his speech therapist (as we developed our understanding of the particular limitations manifested by Matt’s cerebral palsy affected brain), and devised “coaching” tips to share with Matt.
You see, my Friend, Matthew did not want to be recognized as someone who was challenged by the retardation of his mental functions. He did not want to have his physical impairments noted or accommodated. He wanted to be … Matthew; just another guy; a friend; one of “the gang.”
At our neighborhood YMCA … where I weaned Matt from my accompaniment by pointing to the “Members Only Beyond This Point” sign at the entrance to the gym, and told him that he was the Member. I was just his driver and escort. And I had no privileges there … he was the entitled one … none of the many folks, that Matthew established himself with, discussed, or even took notice of, the fact that he had never experienced homework assignments from school … when he discussed, with them, their children’s struggles with homework. He had honed his listening skills to such a lovely degree of empathetic listening that anyone would comfortably believe the illusion that he was in complete understanding of every element of the subject at hand. He simply pushed aside that potential barrier to social intercourse, by focusing on the finer goal of the desired relationship. He was marvelous. He was allowing himself to be! And he became a very self-assured young man. Content in himself, and comfortable with others.
So why, you, my Darling Reader, may well ask, do I tell you all of this? Because, Dear One, I hear so many lamenting their frustrations and disappointments at not achieving what they had expected themselves to achieve. So much moaning and groaning about perceived “failures!” And it is all about stuff that they feel that they “should” (by some mysterious standard either imposed by others [who have no God-given right to either impose; or certainly not to judge], or by some inner demons that inflict demands based on nothing more than self-generated unreasonableness.)
To these I say “How is that human Being coming along? That’s right! You are not a “human doing.” Even machines and devices can do stuff. But only a Being given the marvelous Gift of choice and election can be.” So I ask you to consider following Matthew’s lead. Set aside those impediments to your realization of who you … and only you … can be. And permit your Self to be … that uniquely equipped, individually gifted, and singly able person who has this one-time opportunity to offer our world … You.
I humbly thank you for your patient indulgence with me. Please know that my speaking to you, in this way, is born only of one thing … my genuine and respectful love of … You.
I remain your steadfast Friend and always willing Servant.
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