Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Michael the educator

Even though he never graduated from high school or attended college, my son Michael still holds a degree in education. His life provided the kind of wisdom similar to that of an aged scholar, regardless of his young chronological age. His curriculum was pages of priceless life lessons ranging from living with a progressive disease to dying peacefully, written from the soul of a small boy with a big purpose.

Here is one of many life altering moments gracefully allowed me through Michael’s classroom. There is no course available, even taught by the best of professor that can speak into such a broad range of life experience like a child who demonstrates it. As Michael's Mother I thought I would be the one who would teach him about life but instead it was him who taught me.

As Michael’s disease progressed and his hip joints separated, he transitioned into a wheelchair. I was his transportation to and from school, waiting each afternoon for him in the school foyer. When Michael came wheeling down the hall, I would watch his friend’s trip across his wheelchair, often falling on him or each other. They never seemed bothered by it, the fun and laughs continued despite the wheelchair chaos. At one point, I decided it was going to be necessary to share my concerns and speak to his class. A few days after that decision, Michael and I were playing at the park. I noticed the kids there didn’t have the same problem with Michael’s wheelchair and kept a safe distance from him.

That’s when I realized I was the one who had an issue, not Michael or his school friends. It became clear to me that his friends didn’t see the wheelchair and that’s why they stumbled across it all the time. They just saw Michael and wanted to be close to him. I never did speak to his class; instead I was taught to enjoy the view they provided in an amazing new way.

After that experience, I never looked at a person using a wheelchair the same again including those around the wheelchair; family, friends even strangers. We don’t always get to choose who or what will educate us but many opportunities exist. Is there a young child teaching you?

For me, it was a young boy in a wheelchair teaching a course called Be the Change.

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