I wrote a few months ago about the deep joy and deep pain we have faced working with families in the community – and about the lesson we have learned that the hard always goes hand in hand with the beautiful. In the same post, I wrote about a mom who had come to the gate wanting us to take her son.
The desperation a parent must reach to bring their own flesh and blood, their child, to the gate of an orphanage is something I can’t fully comprehend.
But I stop and listen, and try to understand.
It is always different; it is never black and white.
But today I am here to share the story of one mother and son.
It always begins with someone coming to me saying “Auntie Emily, there is someone at the gate with a child.”
So I walk down the driveway barefoot and head to the large gate where Simon, our day guard, is seated with a smile on his face. As his own parents bought into the cultural belief that disability is inability, he takes great joy in seeing the change that sometimes transpires at our gate.
On this particular day I reached the gate and greeted the mother, meanwhile watching this little boy standing next to her out of the corner of my eye. Within seconds of observing it was clear this little boy had Autism. I smiled at his mom, and she asked me “can you take him?” Without much thought I replied to her my automatic response “No, but you can come inside and we can talk about different ways that we can help you parent your child.”
She did not move from her spot and enter the gate, she instead looked down at her son and mumbled a question; a question I was not prepared for. As she looked down at her son, who was spinning around in circles, she raised her eyes and looked up at me and whispered “can you fix him?”.
And just like that my heart hits the floor. I am slapped in the face with the cultural stigma and ignorance many people have towards disabilities. I can tell this mom until I am blue in the face that her son doesn’t need to be fixed, that he is fearfully and wonderfully made and PERFECT.
But cultural stigmas and beliefs don’t change that easily...they run deep as roots.
So I met her gaze and simply replied "He doesn't need to be fixed. Come inside."
After we talked I offered her a job. A job where she could bring her son, Praise, to work and he can have a safe place to play. A job where she can learn from our mamas about autism. A job where counseling is available to her when she needs it. A job that provides this single mother enough money to provide for her and her son.
A job where those negative stigma's don't make it past our gate.
A job where I pray she can learn to love like the One who so loves us.
And so, root by root, we are digging up those old lies and planting truth.