One of my friends convinced me to go to this ministry she helps run. It’s called Hanging with a Star. You basically watch and love on adults with special needs, which gives their caregivers a little break. A couple weeks ago we took them to a Wheaton basketball game. Today, we went Christmas shopping at Target and then helped them wrap their gifts.
I love serving and caring for people, but if I’m honest, the reason I initially went was more to love my friend than it was for the Stars. I’ve never had experience working with anyone with special needs, much less adults. I think I just assumed I didn’t have a “heart” for people with disabilities because I haven’t ever really been around them.
I’m so grateful I was wrong. I’m so grateful I do have a heart for these people because Jesus has a heart for them. I’m grateful that in trying to care for the Stars, they turned around to love and encourage me in such meaningful ways. I’m grateful for the ways they make me laugh and smile. They bring out fearless, extraverted, childlike, confident, caring pieces of me that frankly I didn’t know I had. I’m grateful for who they each are and the ways they demonstrate love and community among one another. I’m grateful that they welcome us in every couple weeks. I was grateful that Ric remembered who I was from the basketball game. I’m grateful that I got to walk around Target with him today.
Here’s a couple things you should know about Ric . . .
- He’s a speed-walker when it comes to shopping. I’d glance for an extra second at something and when I looked back he would be halfway down the isle. I spent most of the time jogging around Target to keep up with him. For someone who’s got a lot of things trying to weigh him down and hold him back, Ric lives life at a vibrant pace. Kind of like how he threw off his jacket and took off with the cart, he strips off everything that holds him back. He’s not afraid to just go.
- He can’t really talk. He understands a lot and can make sounds or motions, but it’s hard for him to form words. This makes Ric an amazing listener. Since we finished our shopping twice as fast as everyone else (see previous comment), we ended up having to wait in the Target café area. Besides giving quick answers to my questions and telling me that everyone else was taking too long, all Ric did was listen. He didn’t give his opinion or advice. He didn’t seem uninterested. He simply smiled and listened. To stories about my family and friends, to my recent boy interactions, to things I love about Christmas, to what Jesus has been teaching me.
- He was very excited to buy Christmas socks for the girls on his list. He picked out ones with penguins and ones with a dog and I wasn’t about to argue with a choice he was so obviously pleased with. Ric found joy in the simplest things. He laughed when I tripped over myself trying to catch up to him. He laughed when I ran around a pole because the isles were crowded. He smiled when a Christmas song came on and he asked me to dance. Ric saw the joy in the seemingly insignificant things and wasn’t afraid to make them the big things that brought him life.
- Ric was also not afraid to ask for help. I’d mention, mostly to myself, that I didn’t know where something was, and when I turned around, Ric was tapping on someone’s shoulder and motioning me over to ask them where it was. He seemed to understand, better than I do, that things are better when you reach out to others. Shopping for him wasn’t about going it alone but depending on others. Who knew that Target could be a place of such vulnerability? As it turned out, there was only one card matching game in the whole store and we wouldn’t have found it if this lady hadn’t shown us where it was.
Not only did I enjoy my time with my sweet friend Ric, I learned a lot from him today. And I kind of think that’s who we should surround ourselves with.