Yesterday was humbling, and awesome!
Personally, I am shocked at the positive response and outpouring of support from yesterday’s post; “Diary of My Life with a Handicap Brother”. I’ve read messages, emails, and comments from so many friends, family, and complete strangers. A few people have moved me to tears with their own honest words in describing their situation. I truly wish that yesterday’s post would go viral, with one caveat… that I was not associated with it. I did not write that post for recognition or adulation, but for those who live it or can learn from it. Those words are a tribute to my brother, and every other beautiful soul, impaired by uncontrollable mental limitations. If it can produce such strong responses from complete strangers after only 500 or so views, then I imagine there are many in the world that would appreciate bonding through the shared experience of having a handicap sibling.
This post is a thank you to everyone that took time out of their day, their lives, to read the words of an unworthy brother. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I also thought it would be cool to reveal one of those private message conversations about the post. I was given permission by this person, and he too does not seek recognition so he will remain anonymous unless he chooses to reveal himself. Below is the unedited conversation, excluding his name. It is a good expansion on the previous post, and is worth the read (in my opinion). Enjoy:
Friend: “Hey Josh, I read your blog about your brother and it took me back to a moving experience in my life that I wanted to share with you. This isn’t something that I “advertise” because much like you said in your blog it was just normal. This isn’t something I deserve any recognition for but rather I owe much gratitude to the wonderful people I was blessed to meet. When I was in 8th grade I finally got to be a teacher’s assistant for one of my classes. As you may recall this is what the cool kids got to do. A “blow off” class if you will. I got my schedule and the room number and was really excited. When I showed up for the first time I had no idea that it was an assistant for the special Ed class. You see I did not volunteer and I was not asked. I was told that I was selected because someone (I still don’t know who) thought I would be a good fit. The teacher told me on the first day “If you aren’t comfortable with this, it is ok and we can find another class for you to assist”. I’ll be honest my first reaction was disappointment. I had zero experience with this and had no idea what to expect. I guess you could say it was my sports background and never quit attitude or maybe it was God, but nonetheless I told the teacher I would stay. And I’m so glad I did. I learned a lot of what you mentioned in your blog. The love, excitement, and joy of watching these kids and helping them learn new things. I was there during their reading period helping them learn new words, shapes, and colors. I was also fortunate enough to help them get ready for a Special Olympics event. I got to help them run and play sports which as you know is right up my alley. I experienced the good and felt their appreciation for helping them, I could really feel when they were excited to see me and when they accomplished something new. Even better I gained an understanding of their struggles and how it is the same as mine only different struggles. When that semester was over, I probably still didn’t realize the impact it would have on me. I attribute a lot of my ability to get along with everyone and being able to be friends with a lot of different “groups” and people to that semester. In high school I never really belonged to one “click” but could really hang out with anybody without ever feeling out of place. I found myself standing up for people in high school who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I owe those kids a lot. Now being a father of two kids, I think I have even more of an appreciation for that experience. I know you didn’t write that blog for any recognition but I applaud you for being such a good little/big brother and sharing your honest feelings and experiences. I know Jeremy appreciates and recognizes everything you do for him in such way that nobody can truly understand but him. And that my friend is a beautiful thing. Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you and I hope all is well in your world. You have a beautiful family and I wish you continued success. PS: please excuse my grammar, I can’t hang with the professionals like yourself when it comes to grammar and telling a story”
Me: “Hey Brother, first and foremost, it’s good to hear from you man, and I hope you and your beautiful family are doing well. After reading what you wrote, I am kind of speechless. You are a far better story teller than you know. I teared up a bit reading that, because you described perfectly what happens to us when we put aside our prejudices and just love another human for who they are no matter how bad we selfishly don’t want too. Reading what you wrote was probably how you felt when you read mine. I felt very connected to your words and experiences. You moved me [His Name], and made me feel like the time and energy I spend on writing is worth it. I didn’t know you in high school, but I definitely knew of you. You were the badass baseball player and you were the quarterback right? I do remember you helping in the Special Ed class, and you and (I forget his name) the guy with the rag he always chewed on were pretty close. I thought it was strange to see you in there, because, well… for obvious reasons. Most High Schooler’s, especially popular ones (that sounds so goofy actually saying out loud) were usually above being subjugated to the Special Ed room. I knew there was something different about you, and though I did not know you then, I respected the hell out of you. More importantly, I am so glad you got to experience the life changing wonder that only truly innocent people can bring out of us. You mentioned fatherhood, and they are very similar in many ways. Children are innocent, and so are the mentally handicapped. That innocence is a purity straight from God, and because of their innocence, they interact with the world in a different often better way than the non-innocent. I’m glad that you let yourself be open to seeing it, and learning from it, and then applying it to your life. You basically got a big jump start on the wisdom that most men do not begin to gain until they become a father for the first time. I cannot thank you enough for your honesty, and for sharing that with me. I wish somehow I could share your words anonymously so others can be moved like I was, but I understand not wanting the world to glorify you, or even thinking that what you said isn’t that special, but it was. Thanks again man, and BTW… my grammar is really bad. I know nothing about sentence structure or even what an adverb is, but I read a lot, and try not to sound like a total idiot, but I appreciate the kind words.
Friend: “Thanks Josh and you’re right. How you felt reading this was exactly how I felt reading your blog. In your response you wrote: “More importantly, I am so glad you got to experience the life changing wonder that only truly innocent people can bring out of us. You mentioned fatherhood, and they are very similar in many ways. Children are innocent, and so are the mentally handicapped. That innocence is a purity straight from God, and because of their innocence, they interact with the world in a different often better way than the non-innocent. I’m glad that you let yourself be open to seeing it, and learning from it, and then applying it to your life. You basically got a big jump start on the wisdom that most men do not begin to gain until they become a father for the first time.” That sums it up best. The innocence of a child or mentally handicapped is the purest innocence I have ever encountered in my life. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world and the scariest thing as I fear people who look to take advantage of that. If you have an avenue and wish to share my words please feel free to do so. Sharing and learning can only help others and hopefully get them to open their minds even if only for a short time.”
Me: “Again, I cannot thank you enough for writing me. You are absolutely right in that sharing is an opportunity to learn and it does help others, in this case me. You and I having aligned thoughts on this subject let me know that I’m not crazy, nor are my thoughts in left field (Baseball analogy for ya). Another parting thought that just popped in my head from reading your words. Innocence of a child or mentally handicapped person is the purest innocence you have ever encountered in your life… That statement right there makes it painfully obvious to why Jesus loved children so much. There is pure joy and happiness in innocence. Armed with that knowledge it makes sense why Christians are commanded to hate the world… the world steals our innocence. God doesn’t fear the inevitable loss of innocence, but it sure does anger Him with incomprehensible greatness. Hmmm… not sure where I am going with that, but it needed to be explored.”