Monday, February 21, 2011

When You Know A Child 'Gets It'

I've got to give credit to my autistic teenage son.

He may not come across as the sharpest tool in the shed. In fact, there are times when my wife and I both wonder what planet he is on. (For that matter, we've shared that same question about ourselves in comparison to other people close to us.)

But God is able to work through him. Sometimes I think that this is the blessing in such an affliction; that the mind is unaffected by focus on mundane concerns so as to be 'in the moment' compassionately when others are in need. In spite of the hindrances I have placed on my son by being who I am, he still manages - and in a positive and enthusiastic way - to contribute to the needs of others. It's happened twice now in the last six months, and has me rethinking how much I should consider doing to support people doing charitable humanitarian works.

The first opportunity came up last September. A group of volunteers were sought at Cornerstone to spend a couple of hours packing food packages for the children of Haiti and other impoverished countries. My son saw this as an 'EVENT' of great magnitude and, as there was an opportunity for learning and for performing charitable service, I got us both signed up. He was happy, enthusiastic, and diligent throughout the session. When we got home he talked Mom's ear off attempting to explain his experiences. He hoped to do this again someday - we are keeping our eyes open for whenever that opportunity surfaces.

This past weekend while attending services at Cornerstone, he learned about the church's Mission of the Month. The organization, Nothing But Nets, is a cooperative effort between the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association, Sports Illustrated magazine, and the United Methodist Church. The charity raises money to buy mosquito netting to provide to families in Africa who must sleep at night among the threat of malaria mosquitoes.

I watched the promotional video twice (since, as musicians, we participated in both scheduled worship services), looking for what might possibly have attracted my son's attention. Since the NBA is involved in the project, the 'nets' could have been symbolized by those used in basketball hoops. Only they weren't. As we're not full members of the congregation, I'm often unprepared to donate on the spot - but whenever there's a website involved, my son will lock that address in his brain until he can get to his computer to check it out.

He decided he wanted to send in a donation from the allowance he has been earning. Ordinarily the 'savings' build up until he has enough to buy the next video game he wants. Understanding that this would mean holding off a potential purchase until his next 'pay day' did not seem to phase him in the least. So today he and I took his investment and paid a donation to the charity.

In all of this, my son is being motivated to do something to help someone else. He's doing this because of his sporadic attendance (due to me) at Cornerstone, a place that seems to go out of its way to welcome people and minister to them,  in spite of a massive debt due to a building expansion and at a crossroads due to the change in pastors last summer.

Up to now I have seen my participation at Cornerstone part of the wandering minstrel that I am. A missionary, as it were; or quite possibly a spiritual 'mugwump' - which, if you recall American history, is someone whose 'mug' sits on one side of a fence while his 'wump' sits on the other. My son's willingness to be even a small part of things has had me apologizing - more than once - that I am not necessarily a member of the congregation.

Three weeks ago, I was tapped by a colleague at the church, asking if I would consider volunteering my time to call other families in the congregation to do no more than raise awareness in prayer over the three-year capital pledge drive campaign that is beginning to move forward. I had to think about this seriously, and I prayed over it myself before deciding accept the invitation. In all of this I've come to understand that where it matters, my son and I are considered part of the family.

I don't have to wonder if God isn't at work in my life. All I have to do is witness the generosity of someone whom 99% of people I know could probably not consider at all. This is the work of love.

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