A Lesson from Yams

yamsLast week I met with an incredible group of parents who were part of a pilot project called CHAT, Communication Hope through Assistive Technology. Its mission is to assist youth with disabilities who communicate using technology to open their voices to the world. The kids attended a camp and the parents all met together to learn from each other and other professionals. They asked me to come and talk about David’s Refuge and the importance of self care as a caregiver. Somehow my presentation ended up talking about yams!
Now I have to be honest I am not a yam lover. Every time Brenda cooks up a batch of yams I always think, Oh no, not yams again! Why can’t we have home fries or Trader Joe’s rice or baked potatoes? There is always something better than yams.

But once I get the yams on my plate, all mashed up with several tablespoons of butter and lots of salt and pepper I actually find myself enjoying them. I forget how ugly the outsides look; I start to appreciate the soft orange color, and sometimes I even start thinking of other creative ways to cook and enjoy them. I stopped focusing on all the negatives and began to embrace the good and potential wrapped up in that beautiful edible tuber!
Raising and loving and accepting and embracing a child with special needs is a lot like learning to love and accept and embrace the wonders of yams. At first we think, Oh no my child has cerebral palsy. Oh no, my daughter has Down syndrome. It’s not what we expected. We would have never ordered it. We ask the why me or why him questions? In the beginning all we can see is the cracks and brokenness and struggle.

But after awhile you begin to see the wonder and beauty and personality and abilities of your child. You stop looking or focusing on the things they can’t do and begin to celebrate and embrace the things they can do. You fan into a flame their abilities and gifts. You accept them and love them for who they are and stop trying to make them into who they will never be. When this happens both you and your child enter into a place of acceptance and perfection that brings joy and contentment and wonder.

I love how Kathy O’Connell in her book, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities writes,

“Embracing a challenge or a difficulty means we are really acknowledging the abilities–which have always been within us—to meet it. Many of us do not realize that when we come into this world we already have all the abilities we need to reach our highest potential.”

By embracing your child’s special need, by embracing your role as their caregiver, you release the potential that child has. Embrace your child today. Start by doing it physically. Hold them, embrace them and whisper you love them. Then take a carefully planned step towards embracing their disability and find joy in the journey as you release them to become the person they were created to be.

So you see I’m not crazy. There is a connection to my yam story and self care. If you have any good yam recipes I would love to try one. Hit reply and leave it for everyone else to try.