I was kneeling on the floor with my little friend a couple weeks ago, trying to get him to make eye contact with me. He was starting to spiral down a path I knew wouldn’t end well for either of us. He was refusing to participate in one of the Sunday school activities. It wasn’t his favorite thing – he always fights me on it – but that day his feelings were coming across a lot stronger. I prayed in that moment that God would provide me discernment if this was going to be a hill to die on or not. And just as I finished my thought, younger kids from another class started filing through the classroom door. Immediately, my little friend’s demeanor changed. He is always aware of his behavior when his younger siblings around. I think he takes a lot of pride out of being the oldest and never wants his younger siblings to see him “failing” at anything.
As the children passed in front of us, he jumped off the floor and started searching the crowd of faces for his brother. He spotted him finally and called him over to sit by him for the joint activity. His attitude had completely changed. Now, not only was he willing to participate, he was eager to set a good example. He wanted to show his brother how to follow instructions and when and how to engage. I stood back and watched how a little boy had turned into a young man before my eyes.
As I later relayed the morning’s events to his surprised parents it made me realize that all of us need that opportunity for responsibility in order to grow. If everything is handed to us on a silver platter then we become spoiled with no purpose or drive. I think it’s so easy for us to overlook that inherent need with our kids with special needs. Especially for those of us that are volunteers and may only work with our friends once or twice a week. But responsibility is such a vital discipline to nurture in our kids!
I went home that afternoon to write out a list of things that my little friend could be responsible for in the classroom. Some of the things I know he’s capable of right now. Other things, we’ll have to work toward. But it’s giving him purpose and desire to come to Sunday school and learn about Jesus. And what’s better than that?!
Rachel Roleder serves as the Manager of the Cause 4 Life, Global Missions and Internships Department at Joni and Friends. Rachel enjoys learning more of God’s design for His church as she leads teams of interns on disability ministry outreaches all over the world.