Today, I stood in front of about 40 children and talked to them about something I've spent my life trying to avoid talking about. I did it because my boss wanted me to, and you don't say no to your boss four days into a job. But I also did it for myself. There aren't many times in life where I get to explain my disability from my own perspective without being interrupted, and if I can explain it to children while they're young so they don't become the adults who gawk at me in Wal-mart, I'm all for that.
Even though I could see the advantages of talking about this subject when I was asked to do it, I was very nervous about going against my natural instinct of shifting the focus away from my differences. I've gotten pretty good at staying within my comfort zones and deflecting away from what I don't want to acknowledge, but that was not the plan for today
The thing that was most meaningful to me about the whole experience was that they genuinely listened. All of them listened, for the whole time. Anyone who has any experience working with children would probably agree that was nothing short of miraculous. And when I gave them a chance to ask questions, they did, and I answered them.
A whole group of children listened to me and respected me, and for the first time in a while I made an effort to respect myself. I stopped telling myself that people who drop out of mission trips for reasons they can't even fully explain have no business blogging about their faith. I had something to write, and so I wrote it, because that is what I would encourage a child to do. I began to try to treat myself how I try to treat children, being patient and forgiving.
I've come to believe that working with children is 90 percent feeling like they're not listening to you and you're getting nowhere, and 10 percent touching, Hallmark movie style breakthrough moments that suck you right back in and make you think that working with children is the greatest job in the world. Today, I got every bit of that 10 percent.