Five years. That’s how long it had been since I had gone to church last. I had let so many of life’s obstacles get in the way. I had made so many excuses for why I couldn’t go, not the least of which was that I had a child with Autism. I couldn’t possibly go to church with the behaviors he exhibited, right? Wrong. I needed to go to church for that very reason. After all, what’s missing in my life? A community of support. Where would I find that? Not sitting at home by myself, that’s for sure.
Besides, my son needs friends. Both of my sons need friends. They also need to grow up learning about morals and the right way to live. I’m doing my best to teach that at home, but do they not also need to hang out with friends who have the same belief system they do? There are activities at church. Bible camp. Youth basketball leagues. All kinds of things, and for cheap. The youth ministry even understands all types of children without me having to say anything to them. What was I thinking, staying away for so long? We’ve been welcomed with open arms!
Aside from all of that, our first Sunday at church went pretty well. The first thirty minutes the kids had to stay with me. We had mixed results with that. Big Guy told everyone who came up to him he wanted to sing and dance, and even told some people he would dance with them. When they asked if any newcomers were in the congregation, I raised my hand timidly (I do not like to stand out), and they brought me a bag of popcorn and a flyer. Squeaker and Big Guy lit up, thrilled beyond belief about the popcorn. Later on, the pastor asked if anyone had any blessings to share. My son, Squeaker, raised his hand nervously, not quite sure if he wanted to share. I wound up having to raise my hand to get the pastor’s attention because he’s so short, and then told him it was okay to share. So, he raised the bag of popcorn in the air and gave his goofiest grin with his tongue hanging out while bouncing. Yes, he was thankful for the popcorn.
In that moment, I felt blessed that I had raised children who felt thankful for even the smallest things. The pastor said he hoped that we enjoyed the popcorn. Others in the congregation murmured about it, and I could tell they thought he was cute, like any other kid, of course. I felt so much pride in him. There were moments where he hit me and his brother because he felt bored and nervous and we were in a new place, and we did have to take a break before leaving, finally, to go to the nursery to wait out the time for them to leave for the children’s part of the service. I spent the last part the service without them. No one said anything about his behavior. No judgment.
At the end of the service, several people welcomed me and said they were thankful I had come and hoped I would come again. The usher who gave the popcorn to us found me and gave me two more bags. He told me to please give my boys that popcorn. I don’t know if, in today’s world, kids just don’t express appreciate like that anymore. I think that that’s just one of Squeaker’s most wonderful attributes. He appreciates the small things and expresses it in big ways. I love that about him.
We will return. The kids want to go back. Big Guy, who insisted he would dance and sing on the stage, definitely wants to go back. He still wants to go up on the stage and dance.by