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Taken Unawares

Every week I take my son Matthew to speech therapy and when we come home we drive through this neighborhood that runs alongside the freeway and take this little off-ramp out of nowhere up onto I-5. All spring, as I’ve driven up this ramp,  I’ve watched a plant growing atop one of the pylons that supports the freeway. Imagine my delight when the other week it went and did this:

Yeah! It bloomed. Isn’t that the most delightful thing you’ve ever seen. Flowers growing out of nothing but cement and whatever else is up there. It made me smile and suddenly merging into the afternoon traffic wasn’t  such a chore, with that cheery image filling my thoughts.

Last week we went down to Portland with Matthew for Bike First, and after four days of camp, he had yet to ride a bike. We drove over to Concordia University the last morning, Friday, with heavy hearts, because we all wanted him to succeed and I didn’t want to think that I had invested so much time and money and effort for nothing. Sometimes it is so hard when you have a child with disabilities, making those decisions on what to invest in for his future.

Stopping at Starbucks, I went to get a coffee, a little fortification, and inside was an older man who obviously had disabilities. And he’d come in with his bike and was telling one and all about how much he loved to ride and how he loved his bike.The sight of him brought tears to my eyes, because I felt it was like a giant hand came down and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “See! See that! You made the right choice.”

Then the barista asked the man if he wanted “his usual.” Apparently this fellow with his bike is a regular, and he laughed and said “yes.” Then came the unexpected. You see, the universe wasn’t done with me yet.

The man pulled out a packet of Swiss Miss, and the barista mixed it up for him. This man rides his bike to Starbucks every day so he can have his Swiss Miss. The barista laughed, the pair shared a corny joke and the man sat down with his bike to enjoy his cocoa.

Because you see the unexpected also comes in gentle compassion, understanding and faith.

As for Matthew, about an hour and a half later, he was riding on his own all around the tennis courts of Concordia University. And when the morning was done, he got his picture taken with the Bike First graduates, along with the wonderful volunteers who share that same beautiful generosity I’d witnessed over a cup of cocoa.

8 comments to “Taken Unawares”

  1. Shannon McKelden
    June 28th, 2010 at 3:10 pm · Link

    You never fail to bring a tear to my eye when you talk about Matthew’s accomplishments! He’ll remember that first bike ride always and forever.

    • Elizabeth
      June 30th, 2010 at 7:01 am · Link

      He is quite a handful, but when he finally gets something new, the reward is unbelievable.

  2. Diane O.
    June 29th, 2010 at 2:44 pm · Link

    How awesome. You are a terrific mother, wonderful friend and amazing writer. Tears came to my eyes.

    • Elizabeth
      June 30th, 2010 at 7:01 am · Link

      Thanks, Diane! You are too kind to say so. Can’t wait to see you in December and hope your winter isn’t too cold.

  3. sheryl
    June 29th, 2010 at 3:33 pm · Link

    as a mother of a child with autism we know that every accomplishment no matter how big or small achieved at any age is a blessing prosonafied, blessings for matthew.

    • Elizabeth
      June 30th, 2010 at 7:02 am · Link

      Aren’t they? My best wishes to your son and to you, because we mothers need them as well.

  4. Nicole Mc
    June 30th, 2010 at 4:33 am · Link

    What a beautiful story about the man with the cocoa. Those are the times we stop and consider what a “good” life really means. It usually doesn’t mean what we think it does. Sometimes I think those that we label “disabled” are in on a secret that us “normal” people aren’t. 🙂 They seem to be happy while we stress the day away.

    The plant in the cement reminds me of those discovery channel shows about “100 years after people” (or whatever!). serves as a reminder how insignificant we all are on the journey of earth. If I give those thoughts some time it seems to make my everyday drama sort of seem silly! Great post.

    • Elizabeth
      June 30th, 2010 at 7:02 am · Link

      I thought of that show as well as I kept driving by and watching that plant grow. I just loved that it bloomed up there. We are not the end all and be all of this planet, are we?

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