Hi fellow moms! I’d like to take a moment to introduce my incredible son to you. He is wonderful. He is my hearts joy and would be an incredible friend to your child. He is loyal, funny and honorable. He has an incredible understanding of right and wrong and would never take your child down a risky road that isn’t good for them. He loves to throw a football…but isn’t great at catching it yet. Practice throwing and catching with another boy would make his heart soar. He loves anything and everything Star Wars and is a master builder in the world of Lego. He’s also incredible at Minecraft and could probably teach your son or daughter a special trick or two. Jumping on our trampoline and riding his bike are also things he really loves to do as well. Most of all, James is an overcomer. With all the odds against him, James continually defies odds and defeats prognosis. Every word I just wrote is 100% true and yet my awesome son lives with only one real friend in his life.
You see, when people first look at James, they see a handsome young man and assume he is like every other typical teenage boy. After a few minutes of talking with them though, they begin to realize James is not as “typical” as they first assumed. Uncomfortable, most make a quick exit bringing their children, who were potential friends for James, with them.
The world of invisible disabilities is incredibly painful. It is a world filled with the dream of lasting friendship and the heartache of yet another one lost. It is a world filled with confusion, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy upon inadequacy. It is a world of always being misunderstood.
James has mild autism. He is verbal, and deeply desires friends which is counter to a lot of kids on the autism spectrum. However, his autism does impact his ability to read social situations and make friends. He also suffers from a lower intellectual ability. While not earth shattering, his IQ in the lower 70’s makes learning more difficult and problem solving painfully hard. In a world where boys are growing into strong leaders, we were thrilled a year ago when James finally conquered the challenge of consistently tying his shoes. Finally, in the last year James was diagnosed bipolar disorder. Bipolar is a rough one on James. The chemical imbalances in his brain make him very prone to depression but with the proper treatment James has done incredibly well.
Some, after reading about the complexities James lives with everyday have stopped reading this blog. Why wouldn’t they? Year after year, once mom’s of typical boys have come to understand James’ particular disabilities, have refused to let their boys play with my James boldly saying to me, “He’s a mess.”, “I could never let my Joey play with him.”, “While I want to help, I just can make Ian play with him…it would put too much pressure on him.” (Names changed of course). I’ve heard it all. Every rejection I take and hide deep within my heart hoping to insulate James from ever hearing one. Every time I wish…oh how I wish… someone would take the time to invest in him. And yet, year after year, hope after hope, dream after dream, rejection comes.
Just a few weeks ago, James turned 15. He desperately wanted to have a birthday party at SkyZone or a local Nerf Ball gaming place but sadly, there weren’t enough boys for us invite. Not wanting to hurt James heart, I made several excuses about it being summer time and how so many are out-of-town. With tears in his eyes James asked me. “Why is life always so hard?” As I wrapped my arms around his now 6 foot tall frame and let him sob, I didn’t have any good answers. In this world, there are some, like James, who are utterly rejected, ignored and hurt. Why? Because loving them involves stepping out of comfort zones, giving a little more and sacrificing above and beyond and many these days aren’t willing to do that type of work. Because we lost our way and forgotten that loving the “least of these” is good…so very good. Because the pace of life and demands on us all has caused us to forget the beauty in simplicity, and the wonder of people like my amazing James.
My James is one of the greatest people I have ever known. If I had lived with the rejection and disappointment he has, I surely would have given up and yet everyday he wakes up with a smile and the hope for new friend. If you have a “James” in your neighborhood, or in your child’s school I’m asking you to please urge your son or daughter to reach out, and be a patient and a steady friend to them. You never know, they might just find value where they thought there was none and grow into a more compassionate and loving person. I know I have…and it is all because of knowing and loving my incredible James. How I wish you would want to know and love him too.