Jackie Mayer, Community Relations Director, shares her thoughts on sharing Christmas with a child who has a disability:
I am pretty sure that I am in the small percentage of people in Wisconsin that loves winter. As soon as the snow starts to fall, I get really excited—I almost feel like a kid again. My boys, Peyton, Dillon and Colin, also get excited. They can’t wait to get their gear on and dive into the snow. And Christmas is by far the highlight of my year. I start listening to Christmas music as soon I can pop in a CD. Peyton and Colin start circling the items they want in the Fleet Farm catalog, and Dillon gets excited when my husband Scott puts the lights on the tree. There is a feeling of celebration and love in the air.
On Christmas Eve, my family goes to church to see Peyton and Colin, along with the other children at their Christian day school, share the story of Jesus’ birth with us. When Scott and I look at our boys singing in front of church, we are filled with joy. But then there is a moment during the service when Scott and I look at our other son Dillon sitting next to us, and we do all we can to hold back our tears. Dillon, who has Fragile X Syndrome and Autism, is not able to share if he knows the meaning of Christmas. He does not sing up in front of church with his brothers, and I know that makes his brothers sad. Every year it breaks my heart.
Dillon is 10 years old and has many challenges in his life, but he has come so far. For the past 10 years Scott and I have worked so hard to provide for his physical, emotional and behavioral needs, but we never truly learned how to address his Spiritual needs. We knew God the Holy Spirit is able to work faith through Baptism, and Dillon is baptized. We brought him to church to hear the powerful Gospel. We trusted God’s love when we prayed that Dillon would be in heaven with us one day. We thought we had done all we could. How do you teach someone with cognitive disabilities the concept of heaven or to believe in Jesus as our Savior when we can’t see him? Before I started working for Jesus Cares Ministries a couple of months ago I did not know the answer to those questions. I didn’t know there was more we could do.
There are so many “Dillon’s” out there that don’t know Jesus and are not participating in the celebration of our Lord’s birth. They need to know by faith why God sent His Son into this world and that Jesus cares for them. But they can also benefit and rejoice by actively celebrating what they have come to know by faith. And as Christians, we need to be reaching out to children and adults with special needs to share with them the Good News. We need to also offer them the joy of expressing their faith. They have Spiritual needs that need to be nurtured; as do we.
My hope is that next year I will write an article that Scott and I watched all of our boys participate in a Christmas service, proclaiming their faith, and it was simply amazing.