Last Thursday Abbie and I took an evening stroll over to Barnes and Noble. After putting up with my browsing, she was ready for a story by time we hit the children’s section. We’d just settled in when two little girls, one a foot taller than the other, approached shyly.
“Is she paralyzed?” asked the taller one, with the shorter one nodding and smiling.
“Well, sort of, ” I replied, explaining that she had hurt her brain, not her spinal cord, but that it was still really hard for her to move her body. I had them do a little exercise with their hands that let them understand what it is like to be Abbie…they could comprehend my directions, but they could not get their fingers to move. They were so intrigued, and so tender-hearted that story-time quickly became “show and tell” instead.
They asked about Abbie’s switch, so I let them record their voices on it. Abbie was thrilled to have a little girl’s voice saying “Turn the page, please!” They were so tickled to hear their own voices that they asked to read to Abbie.
So, I stood back and watched Abbie make two new friends…who, it turns out are TWINS! And, I thought my twins look dissimilar! They took turns talking to Abbie and talking to me.
“I think she really, really wants to walk…because, look at how much she is moving her legs!” I loved that observation.
I finally glanced over to a nearby bench to see a woman transfixed by what was going on. It had to be the twins’ mother…and she nodded when I mouthed that question.
I stepped over to thank her for allowing her girls to come say “hello” and play with us. As I did, Abbie began to eavesdrop, as she normally does. Whenever the mom would ask a question, Abbie would use her switch to answer before I could get the words out. It became almost comical.
“Does she like ‘knock-knock’ jokes?” asked Tall Twin. I confessed I was not sure, but that I did know Abbie had a great sense of humor. So, they read a joke book together. Tiring of that, Tall Twin went looking for something new, and found a book about the body. She asked for advice about what Abbie would like to read, so I pointed to the sections about muscles and bones, and off she went again.
I did notice that when she was asking for her mom’s input about the reading selection, it sounded like she spoke a mish-mash of French and Polish. “Indeed,” confirmed their mother, “the girls are trilingual: French, Polish, and English.” I would argue that they are equally fluent in a fourth language: Love.
Their mother asked me what had happened, and thankfully the twins were hunting for new books while I quickly explained. As we talked, being occasionally interrupted by Abbie, she was amazed at how far Abbie has come. At one point she looked straight at me and said, “She is a miracle, this girl.” Oh, yes…she is!
Regrettably, it was soon time to go. I learned that Adeleida (tall) and Margareta (short) go to the bookstore often, so I told them to look for Abbie, and that even if I’m not with her, they should just walk right up to her like the friends they now are.
I tried to thank the mother properly, but was not nearly eloquent enough. How to express gratitude for allowing her daughters to take the risk….to risk a mean or offended response from me, having their feelings hurt, or just being ignored? Most little girls make new friends all the time, but for Abbie (and her mother) this was a monumental evening.
We practically skipped home under a pink sky, the stars twinkling in tune with our song. No wonder Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” Innocent curiousity, unfettered by socialized fear and overpolitness, built a bridge to Abbie that evening. Turns out that little children are the best bridge builders of all!
If you have children…let them risk it, let them build the bridge to someone different…there are precious few crossings for children like Abbie, so let the little hearts lead, and perhaps you will find yourself pounding a nail or two as well!