It was a rare moment of quiet in our house. The television was blaring at top volume, but at least all the people were relatively content and peaceful. The doorbell rang, and I had to get up to answer it. I was curious who it could be. We rarely have people drop by to visit, for some reason or other.
A neighbor from down the block was standing there. Her daughter thought she’d seen my son Peter out alone on the street. (Peter is autistic and non-verbal and needs constant supervision.) This would have been very important information except for the fact that my son was sitting quietly in the living room, playing a game on his computer.
I could have gotten irritated by this unneeded intrusion, but instead I did my best to reassure this woman I was grateful that she’d stopped by. The next time my son actually wanders off unsupervised, I’ll be grateful for every eye looking for him. (If you haven’t experienced the panic a parent feels when their child is lost, then thank God.)
As the parent of a child with disabilities, I will continue to get unsolicited advice for neighbors and strangers. People who know little or nothing about my circumstances will feel compelled to share the latest information or misinformation they heard from the media or from their great aunt. I can be offended that these people can somehow assume that they know the answer to our problems.
Or I can look for the positive behind all these well-intentioned offers of unsolicited help. Each of these offers reflects someone’s desire to help. Our friends, relatives, and neighbors can see that we are dealing with issues that are difficult and frustrating. They would like to be able to help but don’t know what to do. When they do make some bungling effort to give advice or offer some assistance, it shows how much they wish that they had a way to really help.
I need to remind myself that caring neighbors are a blessing. I don’t need them just when I have some emergency. I was created to live in community. There are plenty of times when I might feel like being alone, licking my wounds, and telling the world to go away; but God has a very different plan for my life. That includes being grateful for my neighbors.
Occasionally, I may get an opportunity to educate my neighbors about disabilities and about my son. Most of the time I will simply remember that people reach out with their comments because they’re trying to help. I can appreciate the intentions even if the results aren’t helpful.