Defiling the holy

Posted on March 16, 2011

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It is phenomenal just how defiled I can feel after only spending 6 hours in the presence of small people who are on a regular basis being told “hands out!” referring to their hands being down their pants/shorts or even “don’t put your hands in the potty” when they are in the process of using it.

The defiling comes mostly from the fact that of our lovely class of 8 or so tiny folk, I believe only 3 are actually 100% potty trained. Only a few more are capable of eating their own food without wearing at least half of it or losing a large portion in the form of rather food-saturated saliva. Basically, I come home feeling like I should douse myself in hand sanitizer, regardless of whether I showered in the morning. I find humor in this because it’s not as though I have no experience in such things, but maybe when I’m still wearing nice-ish clothes for work and when the said small person is decorating those clothes with their choice of bodily fluid or messy substance, they are completely unaware of how much Ew is happening, and there is no small voice that says “that’s uhsgusting” as some precious children I know have been known to do.

The same thing that makes this a bit humorous is also what makes my experience working with the autistic population so profound. I love children – they remind me of the biggest and best things I know of God in the most perfect ways – this is why I volunteer and try to spend time with them. I have, however, as I believe many people probably have, taken for granted the age-appropriate and mimicked learning that happens as children just observe.

Now I spend a large fraction of my day with children whose peers far surpass them in academic ability as well as social finesse. It is a treasure that I believe I have taught a kid how to high five who doesn’t even talk. The fact that I can sit with him while he giggles in fits over math lessons is beautiful. The tantrums I’ve seen with this crowd always look like they are a matter of frustration over not being able to convey whatever is wanted, but never a fit of demands and whines. I’m sure no parent would willingly trade whines for autism and the difficulties it presents, but there is a reward in overcoming the monstrous silence these kids seem trapped behind that is not present when in the presence of a “normal” child.

In some ways when I teach the children words, I feel like I am tricking them out of something special they have. It is much harder to make people realize the value of silence and the wisdom in quiet than it is to teach a person vocabulary and end up with a blabbering wealth of useless syllables.

Really, I think the way I feel about these kids is just as hard to articulate as words are for them, except I have words and can’t come up with the right ones. I don’t know if they have words, they might. But I don’t want to defile their separation since I can’t understand it. I just want to appreciate it, and alleviate the ugly parts — as we should do with everything.

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