The past few weeks have been kind of crazy (as usual) and I've been somewhat emotional (more than usual). Last week was Spring Break, and I just needed some good news, some encouragement, SOMETHING to let me know that I'm on the right path and haven't royally screwed my children up by schooling them at home. It was just one of those weeks. I know you know.
The kids and I made a trip to Walmart to pick up a birthday present and, on the way back home, they all three wanted to stop at the park. I really needed to get home so that I would have time to wash my hair and look presentable for church that night, but it is such a rare occurrence to have all three of my kids want to do the same thing at the same time, and the weather was so beautiful. I said YES to the park.
The boys went to throw the baseball, Violet ran to the swings, and I went to sit in the shade and enjoy the day. I really needed a peaceful moment, and I was really surprised that there was only one more family at the park since the day was so gorgeous. Aside from a dad and his son, we had the place to ourselves.
I had enjoyed the tranquility for about 1 minute, literally, when the dad came and sat down under the pavilion a few tables away from me. I didn't make eye contact for several reasons. 1- I'm an introvert. I don't go out of my way to talk to people I don't know. 2- Idle chit chat is so awkward to me. It's almost painful. 3- I was really enjoying the solitude.
But this guy, he wanted to talk. The very first thing he said to me was, "Is that your boy out there, throwing the baseball?"
I glanced up at him and said that yes, both of them were my boys. Then I went back to my book.
He kept on. "That's pretty amazing the way he does that. Does he have cerebral palsy?"
Okay, woah. Several things started happening at once. I realized that he was referring to Shaun, not Jordan...most people don't refer to my oldest son as a "boy" anymore. And then my Mama Bear started to come out. I immediately became defensive. In general, even after 19 years, I'm still not very comfortable discussing this diagnosis. Especially with some strange man in a park, when I was trying to clear my head. I thought to myself. "How rude! What a thing to say to someone you don't even know. What's wrong with this guy?"
I don't know for sure what my face looked like, but I have an idea. I tend to wear my feelings on my face. It's an unfortunate characteristic. I did manage to keep my words from getting away with me, though, when I answered, "Yes. He does."
Back to my book. I really wanted this guy to get on with his life and leave me alone. But no. He said again, "That's pretty awesome how he does that."
He's right. It is amazing that Shaun can throw and catch a baseball with just one hand. I began to think that maybe this guy might be okay after all. He went on. "My grandfather had cerebral palsy. Pretty similar to your boy. He couldn't use his right side and couldn't talk very well. It never held him back, though. He coached baseball and worked for the State of Georgia until he retired last year. Here's a picture of him on his retirement cruise."
I spent the next half-hour being encouraged by this complete stranger at the park. He encouraged me as a mother by complimenting the fact that I allow Shaun to try new things. He showed empathy to me as we discussed the hardships people with CP face. And then, the boys came over to the pavilion and he spent some more time encouraging them.
He watched them play ball, bragged on Shaun's ability and told him to never let anything hold him back. He also told both boys to always have each other's back. Before he left, he shook Shaun's hand and said, "I'm Jeff and it was nice to meet you."
I loved the way he treated my grown up son just what he is... a grown up. He didn't talk to him like a little kid. He genuinely listened. He made him feel important.
Then he scooped up his son and left.
As far as I'm concerned, this Jeff guy was an angel sent to encourage all of us that afternoon. I definitely needed that conversation more than I needed to wash my hair. (Which didn't happen. Hat day. Ha!)
Why am I even bothering to write this? I guess it's to encourage someone to get out of their comfort zone. Talking to a stranger about my personal life was something I never would have wanted to do. In fact, I contemplated moving to a different spot in the park after he asked his first question. And truthfully, I judged this guy a little. I wondered what kind of a guy hangs out at the park in the middle of the day. A slacker with no job? Maybe he was thinking the same thing about me, who knows?
I tend to internalize everything. There's usually a running dialogue in my head about...everything. I talk to myself and even answer myself sometimes. I go replay situations and possible outcomes over and over. This is all fine and good, but had I kept to myself on that afternoon I would have really missed out. I believe in divine interventions. I needed some time to myself that day, but God knew that I needed some conversation even more.
So, Jeff. Whoever you are. You'll probably never read this, but I pray someone blesses you just as much as you blessed us last week.