Friday, 17 May 2013

‘I’m So Glad I Touched Shoulders With You’

           Joshua started school at five years of age, like every other child in our school. In many ways he was just like the other children. He lived on the same Hutterite colony and was able to walk to school. He took his meals in the children’s dining room in the communal kitchen. And he wore the same type of clothes as the other boys; dark trousers and a homemade shirt under suspenders.

When he started school, we knew that he’d require special help, since he wasn’t as strong and well-coordinated as other children his age. He had to work a lot harder and it took him longer to master most things.  For example, the s in his name was a real challenge. He bravely practiced for many weeks, on paper, whiteboard, and jelly bags till he finally printed a somewhat shaky s. It was much the same with cutting out a circle. I had tears in my eyes the first time he did it.
           I’m an educational assistant and was hired especially for him. Every achievement was a mini celebration. It didn’t take long for him to have his own place in my heart. Over the years we’ve learned a lot from each other, but it’s probably me who has learned the most. He still faces challenges and sometimes, its simple things that for his peers fall under fun:

June is Track and Field month and Joshua had just turned twelve. Everybody had been excitedly practicing races, high jump, long jump, javelin, discus and shot-putt. Everybody except Josh! He does not enjoy sports, because it’s difficult for him to keep up with the other children and he does not like crowds. To make matters worse, it was a windy day. He doesn’t like wind, either. Still, he tried to be a good sport and bravely took part in some events.
            He stood at the starting line of the 200 Meter race with three other boys. There was a crude track with white spray-painted lines on a country road, stretching out in front of them.   "Almost like at the Olympics!" Josh proclaimed. A pistol shot signaled the boys to dash for the finish line. Joshua’s competitors charged ahead like hares, leaving him to trail way behind them like the tortoise.

I was waiting for him at the finish line with some other teachers and parents. “Is there anybody from our school running now?” one mother wanted to know.
            “I don’t think so.” I answered, “But you can cheer for our Joshua.” Which she did with enthusiasm, along with all the others standing with us.

 “Go Josh, go! Go Josh, go!” This was all he needed to keep going -- friends, teachers and total strangers, cheering him on. He was the only one toiling on the track, his face resembling an over-ripe strawberry and his feet seeming too heavy for the rest of his body. “Go Josh, go! Go Josh, go!”   This chant took him all the way to the finish line! “During practice, I always gave up.” He panted. “This time I did not!” With pride shining from his face, my heart knew he did not need a medal dangling from his neck to be a winner.
              This is for you Joshua.  At fifteen, you are taller than I am and bravely facing yet another challenge-- high school. Even though you’ve changed over the years, your strongest qualities are still the same:  your love for books, your infectious laugh and your endearing personality.

‘...And I’m still touching shoulders with you.’


(I wrote this about a year ago, stumbled upon it today and decided to post it. So Josh has been in High School for that long as well and he's doing quite well with his adapted program.)

 

4 comments:

Shelly said...

What a beautiful, inspiring story! I so loved reading it, and I wish the best for him as he enters high school.

Linda Maendel said...

Shelly, He's been in High School for about a year now. And is doing quite well. I wrote this before he started, I should have been clearer on that. Sorry.

Nicole said...

That's beautiful, Linda♥

Katie Troyer said...

Good for Joshua.