This winter our Pastor has been teaching on the book of Philippians. If you are familiar with that book, you are aware that it is a book about joy. One of the points that he has emphasized is that joy is a place where heaven and earth meet. There are moments that help us realize that “we are made in heaven for heaven.” My latest dip into that deep end of the pool happened the other night. And I am still dripping wet.
Tim Tebow’s foundation puts on an annual event called “A Night to Shine.” It is prom for those amongst us with special needs. Those among us that are so often forgotten. Those among us who can so often be stared at or stared past. It is a night that no one will stare past them. It is night that they will be in the spotlight because they will be the king or the queen of the prom. Forget the jocks and the cheerleaders. This night the least of these will shine. And did they ever!
I was a “pal” at Austin Ridge Bible Church which was one of over 200 churches hosting prom that evening. Our guests arrived and were paired up with their pal for the evening. From there they were ushered into the beauty salon for the women and a barbershop for the men. There shoes were shined, hair was sprayed, corsages and boutonnieres were given but there was a deeper purpose. It was an opportunity to unabashedly smother our guests with compliments. “You look great.” “I love your smile.” “You look beautiful in that dress.”
From there we exited the building and took a limo across campus to a red carpet entry. After posing for a photo-op we went on to karaoke, loads of food and sweets, face painting, glitter tattoos and of course… a ballroom with a dance floor and DJ.
When I first met my guest, who was part of an amazing organization called Brookwood in Georgetown (BIG), I learned from one of the supervisors from BIG that he was shy. This proved to be true and it took some encouragement to get him to engage in some of the activities. It seemed that we might spend a lot of the evening watching others on the dance floor. It was there on the sidelines that I first began to get a sense that this was a piece of the Kingdom of God here on earth. I have seen plenty of rooms full of people dancing in my day but never with dozens of men and women with crowns and tiaras on their heads. The openness was remarkable.
With a little push from one of the BIG supervisors my guest was encouraged to step on the dance floor. Once we made it to the dance floor that’s where we spend the rest of the night. With some encouragement to show off his moves and he was more than willing to oblige. Before I knew it I was mingling with many people. One man was extremely endearing as he perseverated on recycling and his favorite movies. “my husband, have you seen A Dolphin Tale?” Yes. “Have you seen A Dolphin Tale 2?” as he held up two fingers. And there was a woman whose pal spun her this way and that in her wheelchair which led to an enormous smile that lit up the room! Random guests would come up to me just loving the chance to show off. One young lady proudly held up her pink fingernails. I told her how great they looked and complimented her face painting. She soaked it in and spread out her dress just enough to show it off a little receive yet another kind word. I am so glad she had the opportunity to soak those in, not just from me, but from a room full of people that night.
While we were upstairs dancing the night away, the guests’ parents were invited to attend “A Night to Dine” where they enjoyed some good ole’ Texas barbecue and some time to themselves. As the evening wound down they came up to the ballroom.
The openness of the evening was incredibly unique and profound. It came in the midst of the simple moment of a mother coming to pick up her son. That evening I had noticed one particular guest we’ll call Jim and his pal. The reason they stood out was because although the guest had a wheelchair he was able to spend some time on his feet. However, he had really poor trunk strength so his pal would have to support his torso quite a bit. Towards the end of the night, I happened to be relaxing on the side of the dance floor when his mother approached. Jim was sandwiched between his pal and another person I assume was a volunteer for the evening. The joy that his mother experienced as she saw her son just being smothered with love as all three of them danced the night away was a moment to remember on its own. Her face beamed as she joined her son on the dance floor and proceeded to steal a dance with him herself. Perhaps it is partly because of Nathan, perhaps it is just because of the sheer beauty of the moment but this is something my mind just drifts back to since Friday. It was such a picture of love from someone who has adored her son since the day he was born and from someone who may have just met him that night. That, my friend, is a picture of joy… heaven meeting earth.
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14a NIV
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!