Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ringing the Bell

We had such an exciting week last week!  After a last minute scramble, Lea graduated.  We found a group of homeschoolers who were having a graduation ceremony and we pretty much crashed their party.  There were 6 other kids.

We only met them on Thursday when we went to rehearse.  Lea was great and her usual friendly self.  She received a little graduation cap as a gift with a marker.  It was a souvenir that you can sign.  She brought this along and proceeded to ask the other grads and their friends and siblings that were there to help to sign it for her, even though she didn't know them.  The kids were nice about it and signed it.  But from a distance, where I watched, there were a few kids who saw her approaching, saw she was different, and avoided eye contact.  They pretended not to see her standing there waiting for them to look at her.  She eventually said "Hi, I'm Lea.  Will you sign this?" and they did.  They probably wouldn't have done that little eye roll had they known I was still watching as she walked away.

One family arrived a bit late.  Their graduate, Brittany, was tall and very pretty.  I knew Lea would be drawn to her.  "Here we go again," I thought, waiting for the avoidance.  But wait...what is this?  Brittany is smiling back at Lea.  She is signing the cap!  She is having a conversation with Lea where she is talking, too!!  Lea was excited and really liked Brittany.  She was lucky enough to get to walk and sit next to her for the ceremony.

The next night was the ceremony.  We had to be there early to get ready.  Again, those other 5 kids were not friendly with Lea.  They weren't mean, but they certainly didn't include her in their group pictures or their running around being silly.  But Brittany did.  Brittany talked to Lea, introduced her to her friend and her little sister Hannah.

The ceremony was great, it went off without a hitch.  There was a reception after and the kids were all glowing with happiness.  I overheard one of them say, "Let's go ring the bell!"  Apparently the church we were in has a big bell outside.  So the 5 kids ran off with their friends and sibs.  But before Brittany went, she came to Lea.  "Do you want to come out and ring the bell?"  Lea's "Sure!" was filled with excitement!  So off she went to ring the bell!  Do you have any idea how this made her feel?  Not the bell ringing, of course, but the simple act of being included.  Being wanted.  I shed a few tears of joy (not the first time that evening!)  When they came back in Lea told her, "You are my best friend."

I told Brittany's mother how much this meant to me.  She was very proud, rightfully so!  When we were about to leave, I saw Brittany and her sister.  I told her with tears in my eyes that I noticed what she did for Lea.  That I appreciated her asking Lea to ring the bell.  Brittany looked surprised.  "Well, Lea is a graduate, too!  Why shouldn't she ring the bell?"  It was as if it never even occurred to her to NOT include Lea.  My response was, "Yes, that's true.  But you are the only other grad who even thought to include Lea and it really means a lot."  Brittany explained that there were times she has felt left out and different, and she always tries to include others who are the same way.  Hannah, her sister, was also very sweet.  "Lea is so nice and I like hanging around her!!"

It may seem like a little thing, to talk to someone with a disability, to include them in something you are doing.  But it doesn't happen very often to Lea.  I always make a point to talk to people I meet with special needs, even if only for a minute.  If it is that easy to make someone's day, why not give it a try?