We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians: 4:7
I love that this guy doesn’t care if people stare.
Well, he does care, but not when he’s doing something like sitting in a giant chair in the middle of a home and gardens expo, because then it’s fun to have people stare. He loves to be told he’s cute, or sweet, or awesome, or whatever. Who doesn’t like to be told those things, right?
Sometimes his total lack of humility gets on my nerves.
Just being honest.
As his older sister I feel that’s something I’m entitled to.
Most of the time, though, I admire his audacity.
Erik is rarely afraid to ask for what he wants.
The crazy thing is people often let him do whatever thing he wants to do. Oh, you want to play guitar with the live band downtown? Sure, come on up, buddy! Oh, you want a free t-shirt from this or that restaurant? No problem! Take two.
That stuff happens all. the. time.
It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, and it’s sweet. I love it. I love it because it shows me, and him, and whoever is with Erik, that people are made of mostly really good stuff. People have been kind to my brother in the most unexpected, genuine ways. Gruff men, cranky women, people who normally would just bustle on by will stop what they’re doing and go out of their way to extend grace to Erik because he is developmentally disabled. He’s different and it shows.
Erik is special.
What if we’re all special?
What if we each have things that we deal with on a daily basis that make functioning in life difficult?
Maybe it’s not everyday, the way it is for my brother, but I’m guessing that you’re like me and sometimes life feels like more than you can handle.
What if we were each willing to extend grace to one another based on the knowledge that we are all delayed in some way?
There is something not quite right with each of us. We are each broken in some way that impedes our functioning. Some of us have to pretend that they are not damaged in order to move through the world, but that doesn’t change the reality. Some of us are too hurt to pretend but we think no one cares so we don’t say anything, we just keep on going.
I think my biggest takeaway from having Erik in my life is that because of knowing him, knowing his specialness, I am able to recognize the specialness in other people. Am I always gracious? No, I am not, not even with Erik. Especially not with Erik.
It’s a goal.
As a Chrsitian I believe that we each have unique, divine purpose. I wonder if Erik, and all the amazing special people like him, have the same purpose: to force us ‘average’ folk to recognize specialness, because once you learn to appreciate it it one person you start to see it everywhere. There’s no going back, no undoing it, once you let go of the notion that some of us humans are whole.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I want people like Erik to continue to have loads of grace and attention and gifts heaped on them. There is much life that they will miss out on. Their lives will never be truly free because they will always be dependent on someone else in one way or another. I think people like Erik should win the Brave Misfit award because they had no say in living life differently. It just happened to them.
I don’t want to minimize the significance of a life lived with a severe developmental disability, either. There are days that I cry while dreaming of Erik without injury, or what it would be like to grab a beer with my brother or for my kids to have an uncle who could take them to Kings Island just because he wanted to.
What I’m saying is that I think we’re all way more alike than we are different. That while the people labeled special have more apparent hindrances we are each hindered by something.
What I want, what I think would be a game-changer, is if we each woke up to the special brokenness in one another.
What would that look like? Would we be kinder, more generous?
I think so.
After I spend time with Erik and his exceptional friends I am filled with a lightness I cannot describe, a joy that I think comes from being seen in a special way. Erik’s friends are kind, and they make me feel exceptional when I’m with them.
My favorite recent encounter was a few weeks ago when I stopped at Erik’s work, Full Circle Supports (if you need trophies, engraving, or screen printing in the Lexington, KY area look them up!). One of the ladies working there came out as he was showing me around (again) and got really close to me. She stopped herself at the last second from actually touching me.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I thought you were someone I knew.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” I told her, because it really didn’t bother me.
“You look like a lady from my church. A lady who gives me hugs every time she sees me,” the woman told me. Her glasses made her eyes look really big and her grin was infectious.
“Well,” I said, “I like to give people hugs. Would you like me to hug you?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, and then we hugged. It was simple.
That’s something I love about Erik’s people. They can ask for what they need if we’ll just listen. More importantly, Erik and people like him, make me feel special because they see me and my brokenness and they meet me halfway with their brokenness and they ask for hugs or high fives or gift me with shy smiles. There’s no pomp and circumstance involved. None. It’s beautiful and easy.
Being special is the best.
I think we’re all special.
I think you’re special.
So let’s go out into the world as our limited, broken selves and extend grace to our fellow limited, broken humans.