When I first graduated with my masters in communication sciences and disorders, I distinctly remember praying that God would help me love the kids I would soon be working with. Many people enter the field because they have a personal connection to someone who has benefited from speech therapy. I sort of stumbled into the field and had never been one to go out of my way to interact with children or adults with disabilities, so I truly needed the Lord to give me a love for those I’d never really bothered to love before.
As he so often does, the Lord answered my prayer abundantly! My primary role here in Hungary is as the speech therapist at the International Christian School of Budapest. I get to work mostly with elementary-aged students who have a variety of articulation and language difficulties. I also get to work with a middle-schooler with autism and a high-schooler with global delays, both functioning at around a first grade level. I could spend an entire blog trying to explain the joy these two boys bring to the Supplemental Services department. I wish you could feel the pride I feel when my middle-schooler observes and imitates his peers, either by clapping at the appropriate moment in chapel or by saying “boo!” as he walks past my door, just like my high-schooler does—every time he walks past my door. I wish you could laugh with me as my high-schooler explains what he has been learning about expected and unexpected behaviors in his social thinking class and then proceeds to diagnose his fellow high-schoolers on the walk to lunch, shaking his head and saying “unexpected behavior” when they don’t respond to his whispered greeting, but then pumping his fist in celebration when he makes eye-contact and gets a returned greeting from another student.
Lunch is when my heart aches the most. I accompany students to lunch from the Supplemental Services department four days out of the week and I often spend that time praying for their classmates to have greater compassion and patience than I did at their age. My middle-schooler is currently more interested in finding his seat and eating his lunch than he is in finding people to sit with. My high-schooler is desperate to connect with others, but is unable to communicate at a high enough level to follow the conversations happening around him. Yet again, I am often humbled by the way God answers my prayers. I have seen middle school boys move tables in order to sit with my middle-schooler. My high-schooler is often greeted warmly and by name as he sits down. And I am most humbled and challenged by a group of fourth grade boys who consistently greet my elementary kiddo with autism and implore him to sit with them.
It gives me a small glimpse into what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 25 when he tells the story of the sheep and the goats and God says to the sheep, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40, ESV). My aching heart swells with pride when I see the students of this school look beyond themselves to care for the “least of these.”
So, the challenge to myself and to you is this: are we looking beyond ourselves in order to reach out to and care for those who are different from us? Those who are marginalized by society? God grew compassion in my heart AFTER He placed children with special needs in my path. Don’t wait for the compassion to come first. Perhaps that only comes after we take the first step of engaging with those who are different from us. I personally long to hear the Father say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:34-36, ESV).
– By Anna Long, OMS Hungary Team Member