In 1980 my husband and I were on a summer mission in the Caribbean with our church. We went to work with the native people to replace the roof on their old church building, paint the church walls, and help with a Bible School for 200 children. We hadn’t planned on adopting a newborn baby whose mother died in childbirth, but that was exactly what happened. We paid a lawyer on St. Vincent $20.00 US and he did the legal work making her our daughter and then we began the Visa process. I want to introduce you to our daughter, Joyce, because she is the only person I know who consistently lives what I have been writing about the past two days based on Samuel Johnson’s quote
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
In many ways, Joyce suffers many of the same insults Samuel Johnson had to suffer in his young adulthood. Through many unfortunate events surrounding her birth and sequelae from a birth defect, Joyce was left with both expressive and receptive aphasia. Aphasia is the inability to process information correctly. Psychological testing uncovered that she is only able to understand about 11% of everything she hears. Moreover, she will always be about age 12 in her psychosocial development because of it. She switches from childlike to mature at the snap of your fingers like a pubescent middle-school child does.
Fortunately, however, God has given Joyce gifts in mathematical calculation, physical strength and eye-hand coordination. In this way she has been able to excel in certain areas. She won awards in athletics in school and in organizational excellence as a supply supervisor in the Navy. However, her inability to understand and her immature behaviors have made her the brunt of many a cruel joke orchestrated by sadistic people of all ages, including teachers. We stopped giving her birthday parties with external invitations when no one would show up even though we’d invite her whole Sunday School class and ask the parents to please bring their daughters for Joyce’s special day. She was abused on the bus riding to school and taunted on the play ground. She was punished for things she didn’t do because she didn’t understand she was being set up. As I read about Samuel Johnson, I think about Joyce.
No matter how Joyce is treated, she always loves in return. I marvel at that. Perhaps it is her “defect,” her brain scramble, but she holds no malice. Sometimes I ache inside for her, but she is who she is, and with all that is “wrong” with her, she certainly has the love part right. At the end of Joyce’s time in high school people crowded around her and wrote beautiful things in her year book. They wrote, “I am sorry, Joyce, for how I treated you. You always treated me kindly and I was never nice to you.” Another said, “I will always remember how you loved everyone. Have a good life. You deserve it.” These comments went on and on for pages. Joyce had made a difference in her high school!
Joyce is now 31 years old. She is still a master organizer, woman of incredible physical strength and she sleeps with Sponge Bob under her Nemo blanket. As an adult, she, like Samuel Johnson, surrounds herself with those who accept her: drag queens, homosexuals, and con artists who know when she gets paid. I thank God every day for her good friend, Mary, who shares apartment expenses with her and watches over her. He answered a mother’s prayer.
Now lest you think, I am looking down upon those parents of children in Joyce’s Sunday School class because they wouldn’t bring their daughters to a “less than perfect child’s” birthday party, I urge you to come back tomorrow where I show you I.am.that.parent.
Learning to love,