A few weeks ago we went to a fundraiser for a local special needs program for POHI young adults. POHI is an acronym for Physically and Otherwise Health Impaired. When Lance was young, he attended a POHI program for elementary school and while at the fundraiser we were able to reconnect with several of Lance's old school mates and their parents. We couldn't believe our eyes!! We remembered little kids and what we found were grown up people. It was such fun catching up with everyone, remembering fun old times and enjoying the DJ, dancing, pizza and raffle. We even won some fun things, a massage and a HD DVD player. Cool...
I remember going to parent meetings, being on parent advisory committees, fighting endlessly with with educators about the education of our children. Planning fundraisers, going to informational meetings and just picking each other's brains for knowledge and advice. We were going to change the system and our kids were going to rise above the standard that wasn't set very high at that time. We encouraged each other to keep fighting.
What I saw the other night, were parents that were worn out. They were proud of their kids and how they have grown, but in their eyes was a weariness, the same weariness that I have seen in my own eyes. Their bodies are starting to wear out, everyone of us have had to have surgeries, several have had heart attacks (they are only in their 50's and early 60's). I asked if they were still fighting and every single one of them said "I try but I am giving up, it is too hard". They don't know what will happen to their children if they die. They are concerned because even after all these years of trying to do the best for their kids, there isn't a place for them to go. There are a few good programs, but most of them are out of state and hard to get into. One mother adopted four special needs kids because she and her husband loved children. Her husband died five years ago and she is now caring for three young men and a teenage daughter with severe disabilities by herself.
Good friends of ours live about an hour north of us and attend a wonderful church. They have a daughter who is now thirty, the youngest of six children. Doris suffered a heart attack about six years ago, they knew they had to do something to provide a place for Becky to live, in case something else happens to one of both of them. There were several other people with special needs that also attended the church. Doris and Gary started meeting with the other parents and the church leadership and they came up with the idea of building a place for these people. The entire church got together, raised money, built a home and provided the finances to pay for people to staff it. It is supervised by a board elected from the church. Becky loves the independence she has away from her parents (even though they see her every week) and Gary and Doris are enjoying being empty nesters for the first time in their lives.
My prayer is that churches all over the country begin to catch a vision to help people and families like this. To allow parents who are worn out to get some breaks. To stop building edifices unto themselves and to reach out to help provide food, shelter, love and support to needy people everywhere.
Come on Church, let's make a difference in the world!!!!