The stage was set perfectly as each little child flashed their biggest smile while taking their place for our church’s Christmas performance. There was a packed house as parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends sat ready with their cameras for what was sure to be a marvelous show.
There our little family sat, about five rows from the front of the church, eager to cheer all the children on who had worked so hard for this moment… and yes, I do mean our ENTIRE family sat there, in the sanctuary, with the masses.
It had been a really long time since we had tried to let our son, Ezra (who has Autism), sit in the sanctuary. Normally we would not have attempted this- the crowds of people and the many different noises that seem to echo through an open sanctuary are all far too overwhelming for my sweet boy. But this was a musical Christmas program, and Ezra loves music, so we just had to try!
So with hopeful hearts, we wheeled him into the sanctuary in his special chair, parked him beside us in the pew, and prayed that he would have a wonderful experience… and just as the opening prayer began… “Help! Heeeelp! Heeeelp! Help! Help!”
I was shocked! A random stream of thoughts began to run through my head.
Thought number one: Wow! Ezra just SAID the word help! And I think he used it sort-of appropriately! He just said a new word! That’s awesome!
Thought number two: Oh my goodness, my child is screaming “Help!” in the middle of a prayer, in the middle of the sanctuary, at the beginning of our church’s huge Christmas program!
As inconspicuous as I possibly could, I wheeled Ezra out into the hallway and immediately began to hunt down some crackers…that’s right, I was trying to find something for him to fill his mouth with other than the word “help!” After crackers had been secured, my little man seemed content munching on his snack, he had quieted, and the singing had begun inside the sanctuary. Surely now that he has had a snack, he would be happy to watch the musical. Ezra loves music! I just know he will love this.
We resumed our positions in the worship center as the first soloist, a little girl, began to sing her lines in a sweet and beautiful voice... “Help! Help! Heeeeelp! Heeeeelp!” My sweet boy’s voice pierced through the Christmas melody. I believe he was done.
My husband offered to take Ezra out this time. He planned to take Ezra to our Church’s Special Needs class for children…obviously, that is where Ezra wanted to be. We had completely upset his routine and expectations for that Sunday and he wanted to let everyone know it! The easiest route from the sanctuary to Ezra’s special class (or the route that would cause the least further disruption) was to go out of the sanctuary, through the side parking lot, and into our children’s building. The only issue was that it was a very cold morning.
So, Jake did the only thing he knew to do…He briskly did a little “walk/run” and pushed Ezra’s chair as quickly as he could in the cold morning air. Through the parking lot, Ezra continued at the top of his lungs with his “Help! Help! Heeeeelp! Heeeeeelp!”
I’m sure this was quite a sight! Jake continuously glanced from one end of the parking lot to the other as he made his way to the children’s building- he just knew that if someone saw a man running through a parking lot, pushing the wheelchair of a child screaming “Help!”, the outcome would probably not turn out in his favor.
Ezra did make it to his children’s class that morning. There, he was loved on, was taught about the Christmas story, and even listened to Christmas music. And he was happy as could be! It wasn’t what all the other kids did that day, but it worked for him and it was his little routine that he expects and loves.
What can I say? We tried! As a parent of a special needs child, you have to try because you never know when you might be met with success. As for the times that are not so successful, sometimes they are gut-wrenching hard, sometimes they are frustrating, and sometimes you just have to laugh about them!
This is one of those times that I can laugh about. I can also be thankful- my child learned a new word and my husband wasn’t jumped in the church parking lot for stealing a small child in a wheel chair! In my world right now, I consider that a fairly successful day!