Many years ago, in a small Mississippi town, a baby was born. She was blue, she was very sick, she was very weak. This baby girl was the youngest of five children, but being the baby did not entitle her to the place of spoiled little sister. In fact, she often struggled. School was difficult, earning the approval of certain members of her family was difficult; she was too fat, too ugly, too dumb. Her mother, however, worked hard to instill a sense of responsibility, a love of education, and the independence to never be reliant on another person.
As this beautiful baby girl grew up, she worked hard to be successful. She attended college and earned her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. She got married, and got her first teaching job. She had a baby girl, and got her next teaching job. When her little girl was 3, she became a single parent.
As a single parent, she struggled with being the one on night shift when her daughter was sick, but still going to work the next morning. She struggled with paying bills, buying groceries, and still having to pay for field trips. However, there were things she did not struggle with. There are things that she has never struggled with.
This beautiful woman has never struggled with loving people. She has never struggled with wanting to help people. She has never struggled to love children, nor with the desire to do whatever is necessary to help children. In fact, she has always gone above and beyond in her desires to love and help other people.
As the years passed, she remarried and had two beautiful little boys. She continued working to help children.
She worked in the field of special education. She worked with the “bad boys”, she taught the “unteachable”. She had students who can still bring tears to her eyes and students who more than 15+ years later still contact her.
As her sons grew, and her daughter left home for college, she continued to teach these children. She continued to work with their parents and advocate for them to receive the best education possible. She continued to love these kids in a way that only a mother could love a child. At times, she was as much a mother as their own. Many of these kids found peace and security nowhere, but in her classroom. Her sons would ask her, “Mama, why do all the bad kids know you? Why do the bad kids love you?” Her response was always, “Because I love them.” She did, she loved them and always treated them with the respect that even the most important officials receive. “They are people, they do have feelings, they deserve love and respect.” Just ask, she’ll tell you.
The years have passed, this beautiful woman has gone from Special Education Teacher to Assistant Principal, Principal, and now is the Director of Exceptional Children’s Services (Special Education Services) for a district in North Carolina. Today, she does not work directly with the students, but instead works directly for the students. She may not know Matthew or Elisabeth when she sees them in the hall. Instead, she knows their parents in the grocery store and she knows Matthew and Elisabeth’s file from front to back. She knows every person who works with them and knows every detail of what is happening with their education and services. She works to ensure that these service providers and teachers are ensuring they are receiving the best possible education.
Not only does she make a difference in the lives of these children, she also makes a difference in the lives of their parents. She has an open heart, a level of love for people that many have never seen. She understands the heartache that parents have, she understands the desires that parents have for their children, and she loves them and helps them to channel those desires, that love in the best way for their children. She understands because she is the mother of a child with special needs and the grandmother to a child with special needs.
She also makes a difference in the people she works with. When someone calls to ask to speak to her, the person on the other end says, “Oh, M, She’s so amazing.” or “M is the best person I have ever worked with/for.” They say things like, “M is such a sweetheart.” and “M can go in a meeting with an irate parent and his/her attorney and come out hugging the same parent.” There is never a cross word, an heir of disgust, or even the slightest sigh when someone mentions her name, only positive comments and adoration.
Finally, one life at a time, she is changing the lives of people all over the world through love. She shares the love of God, the peace and happiness that comes with knowing Him, with anyone who will listen. She teaches Sunday School, she has spent time on an Indian Reservation several miles down into the Grand Canyon as an educator, but also spreading the word of God. She shares the word of God with everyone. Again, people comment, “M is a Christian. We can feel God’s love and presence in her, she never has to say a word, her actions speak for her love of Christ.”
M is an inspiration to me. She is the person I want to be when I grow up. She loves people, all people. She loves the unloveable, teaches the unteachable, and reaches the unreachable. I am honored to be her daughter. I pray that as I am “Embracing the Crazy” that comes with raising my children with and without special needs, I am letting God’s love and my love for others shine through me in just a fraction of the way she does.