I read a beautiful thread on Twitter the other day. Twitter is one of those social media sites that can be the worst place in the world if you’re not careful about what accounts you’re following, but I’ve made an intentional effort to unfollow or mute accounts that are too angry or that cause anxiety and stress from reading. Some might call it building a bubble around myself, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to avoid exposing myself to needless information that only serves to get me agitated.
What happens when you curate your timeline to include as much beauty as possible is that you come across stories like the one that Rachel R. Romeo shared last week. Ms. Romeo is, according to her Twitter bio, a “Postdoctoral Fellow at Boston Children’s and MIT, developmental neuroscientist, and speech-language pathologist.” She shared a story of an encounter with a father and son on an 8-hour flight. The father, who is not a native English speaker, apologized in advance for his nonverbal autistic son.
Romeo realized quickly that the work she was planning on doing on the plane wasn’t going to get done, so she put it away and focused on the man and his child. “I asked him how his son preferred to communicate. He didn’t seem to understand. Perhaps this was a language barrier, but I think instead the child had very little experience with communication therapy. I put away the talk I was working on & asked if I could try. He nodded.”
She set up a rudimentary communication board with symbols for various items and people, and by the end of the flight, the young boy was using it to communicate his wants and needs. The lives of this family were changed by her simple act of helping a nonverbal child find a way to communicate. “This was the human desire for communication, pure and simple. To connect with another person and share a thought. Communication is a basic human right, and I was overjoyed to help someone find it. What a privilege and a gift.”
This story could have gone another way. It could have turned into a live-tweeting about the horrible kid whose father couldn’t control him. About the noise and flailing. About tantrums. But Rachel Romeo didn’t see tantrums or bad behavior – she saw the child who struggled because he couldn’t explain what he wanted. And she answered that with love. She put aside the speech she was working on and delayed her own desires to help a family in need.
This is the way love works, you know. It’s about putting aside your own plans and desires for a time to take care of someone else. Parents know this by heart. When my girls were little, every waking moment was spent in their service, and often those waking moments started before I was completely ready for them. Hot meals, hot coffee, showering … these were all things that occasionally were put by the wayside when I had small children. The career I was working on as an interpreter? Sidelined for 15 years because we felt called to homeschool our children.
True love requires some sacrifice. Sometimes it stinks. But once you get to the other side, you’re rewarded. It’s not always a glowing feeling, the emotional equivalent of rainbows and kittens, but there is a reward.
The years of sacrifice for my children’s education has produced two adults who are ready to take on the world. Sacrificing leisure time to clean the house means I can relax in an organized space in the evening. Sacrificing time to work on brushing up those ASL skills might mean being able to go back to the job I really loved all those years ago.
When we encounter someone who is struggling, we should challenge ourselves to look at him or her with love. We should challenge ourselves to sacrifice a moment of time to see how we can help that person. A moment of our time can make a huge difference to a stranger.
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson