I posted a Facebook status last night on my personal page. It read, “I cried in church this morning when a family came in with a boy whom I instantly recognized as so like my own. And when that boy escaped his father’s clutches to go run and dance to the beautiful music, not one in the church flinched, and the music minister smiled as he continued to sing, I cried again. For we have found a safe and accepting place.” The feelings from yesterday are hanging with me.
We don’t typically go to the later service at church. But the Princess and I had volunteered in the nursery during the early service, and so went to the late service. I knew as soon as this family walked in, sat down, and the dad handed the son the iPad, I was seeing a family similar to ours, dealing with some the same issues we deal with. When the headphones went on, I was convinced their sweet boy is just like mine. For some reason, it made me tear up. I watched as the dad kept a close eye on his boy through the service, looking back at his seated child as he stood singing, gently putting his hand on his son’s shoulder occasionally. It felt so familiar. I know I do those things when Little Man is in church with me. We look the same as this family did yesterday. I wasn’t staring, but I was aware.
I know we are not alone in having an autistic child. Even at our church, we are not unique. But to see this family, so similar to ours….I wanted to walk up to them and say, “We are just like you. Thank you for being here.” I didn’t, though. I thought it would be a little on the weird side, especially since Little Man was not with me.
Towards the end of the service, during communion, the son got up out of the pew and ran across the front of the church, moving with the music. His dad calmly (he looked calm, but I can guess his heart was probably racing the way mine would have been in that moment) walked to him and coerced him back to his seat. The singers never missed a beat. No one in church bat an eye. I cried again. One of the reasons I love our church family so much is that they’ve all been so accepting of our little guy. But to see that same acceptance given to a new family just gave me such comfort. A safe place has been created for special families.
I hope to meet this family soon. I hope they come back to our church, and they see what we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years, that they will know we think their son is beautiful, a blessing, and that they are welcome. I know them, because they are we, but I hope to get to know them, so they might know they’re not alone.