Today, I had the privilege of spending my morning working with special needs children and adults. I’m not sure if they had more fun or I did, but I’m certain of one thing – I left with a full heart.
The plan was to entertain the children and let them experience the joy of riding a pedal tractor. After about an hour of fun, I was surprised to turn around and see a large group of adults waiting in line to participate. The equipment is not designed for adults, but how could I deny them? They were all waiting so patiently, eyes glued to the bright green tractors. How could I possibly tell them they were too big? How could I say no to 60- year-old Mabel, with the four little roller curls on top of her head? It was apparent I was going to have to make an exception to the rule.
Each person had different physical or mental challenges, but it didn’t seem to matter to them. What did matter was the tight bond and feeling of belonging each exhibited among the group. Some were able to pedal only a couple of feet and others took off like a rocket, but after each one completed their turn, they would face their peers and take a bow. As I presented them with a yellow ribbon, the crowd would erupt with cheers and celebration for a job well done. You couldn’t help but be moved by the experience.
Later, after working with a group of six and seven-year-old kids, a woman approached me with a small boy in a wheelchair. His name was Tralin and he was looking terribly depressed with his head hanging low. His helper explained that he was very discouraged because he was the only one in the group that couldn’t ride the tractor. I looked at her and asked, “Why can’t he ride the tractor?”. She replied, “Because he… well, he is in a chair…I’m not sure if he…”. I gently cut her off with a smile and asked if we could try. She bounced with excitement as we wheeled him over to the tractor, lifted him out of his chair and placed him on the seat. With his little feet tucked under him, one person holding him and another slowly pushing the tractor, this little boy came alive. He flashed a bright smile and held his arms high in the air as a sign of victory. With the speed of a gentle breeze, he cruised toward his classmates as they cheered.
As the group left, I wondered what would become of this little boy. Chances are I will never know, but watching him roll away with his smile reminded me of how we can change others by replacing doubt with hope. Today, a small little battle was won for Tralin. Today was his day to celebrate.