I’m feeling that good kind of tired this morning. The kind that comes after physical exhaustion rather than mental. I spent yesterday evening celebrating my nephew’s 4th birthday at the trampoline park nearby along with his young sisters.
When I arrived, I swore I would not get out there much with them, but I quickly found myself sucked in by their adorable enthusiasm, and the next thing I knew I was playing, running, climbing, and jumping right along with them. It’s been a long time since I have moved my body for the sake of simply feeling where it meets the world and what it can do within those limitations—if such limitations do exist.
Before we left, I even considered signing up for a monthly membership just so I could bring them again and let them take me away on their little adventures, exploring and learning about the world all over again. I have forgotten what it’s like to see the world with new eyes. Children have their own wisdom and I’d like to spend some time in their world seeing from their point of view.
I rode on a new route at work today and talked at length with another coworker about how much we have both learned from the child we serve on the job. This year I got to spend quite a few afternoons with a young girl on the Autistic spectrum. She is non-verbal, so communication was difficult at first. I am not good at being still, observant, or patient enough at times, and she takes her time warming up to new people.
Limited seating forced me to sit next to her and since the driver we were with learned the route quickly, I had time to get to know her. I would talk to her softly, asking if it was okay for me to sit by her, if she had a good day, and if she was excited to see mom. She didn’t respond verbally, but I began, slowly, to notice the way she turned from the window and tried to look at me when I spoke. I noticed her eyes widening. I noticed when, after asking for a high five, whether she would push my hand away or run my palm.
Thinking she didn’t like me much I told mom that was all I could get from her and to my surprise she got very excited. Apparently, the hand rub meant she liked me. I began to notice more. I noticed sly smiles and short bursts of laughter and marked when they occurred. I noted the days she was getting specific snacks or when dad joined mom at the bus stop to greet her. When needed, I repeated myself slowly. I was patient with her responses and did my best to learn the basics of her language.
I have been working with these children for years and there are many such languages I have learned, but they are the ones the screamed their needs in every gesture and misbehavior. I had yet to take in something calmer, slower, subtler. I feel challenged again. I feel opened to something new.
I used to hate having to switch routes so much. I get so attached and I have never handled change well, but these past couple of years I have gotten to meet more students than ever with wide-ranging needs, and ways of interpreting the world have opened my eyes. They are changing me and always for the better. They are teaching me more than how to listen; they are teaching me new ways to speak.
I wish I could teach others in turn what I have been taught, but it would only be a hollow mimicry, flat and fake. I suppose the real lesson they are teaching me is what it is I am really called to do in my work. It is up to me to show others how to be open to their wisdom too.