I couldn’t go anywhere without the stroller. Luke would not respond to his name, or commands like “stop” or “come here.” He also had no fear of strangers, dangerous situations, or leaving my side. If I tried to hold his hand, he would pull away constantly. Despite my best efforts to keep a tight grip on him, he would occasionally wrench free and dart off with all of the speed and intensity of an Olympic sprinter, and with a very panicked mommy in tow. His stroller provided safety, and Luke was quite content to ride in it, as long as I kept moving and he didn’t have to sit still.
This was the scene as I entered the neurologist’s office for the first time when Luke was 20 months old.
Waiting rooms were rarely roomy enough for me to run laps with the stroller, and waiting was not Luke’s forte, so I was anticipating a difficult morning, and feeling a little sorry for myself that I needed an appointment with the neurologist to begin with, but that feeling changed as soon as the automatic doors slid open.
To one side of me sat a baby girl with her parents. She couldn’t have been more than six months old, but her body was painfully contorted and her head was unnaturally cocked backward and to one side. She appeared very stiff. Her breathing was labored. She could do nothing but lay flat on her back.
To the other side a mother sat feeding her little boy – through a feeding tube.
Across the room sat a girl that appeared to be about twelve years old. She was crying and screaming loudly, “Grandma, I want my magazine.” She must have said it fifty times before Grandma sheepishly ushered her outside.
There was a little boy that had no sense of personal space. He was approaching every person in the waiting room and getting just inches from their face, but never saying a word. His mother was trying to control him, but she was also taking care of business with the receptionist, and he was being very determined. The pained look on the mother’s face did not escape me.
That little boy came right up to Luke, too. Luke sat very still and would not look at him. It was clear the situation made Luke very uncomfortable but he wasn’t sure how to handle it. It was then that it dawned on me that Luke had been sitting very quietly since we got there, even though we were standing still. He seemed aware that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, and it made him appreciate the security of his stroller.
As I sat there with my child, so apparently healthy and behaving so well, it was becoming increasingly difficult to wallow in the pity party that I had been throwing myself all morning.
Since then, the chaos of the neurologist’s waiting room has become oddly comforting. Every parent in that office knows first-hand what it is like to have a uniquely designed child. There is no need to make apologies when your child is losing control. There are no explanations required when he or she is acting strangely. There are no looks of judgment from those who think they could do a better job of parenting your child than you. There are only knowing glances that exude grace and understanding, smiles that whisper, “I’ve been there,” and the quiet strength and dignity of those walking the road less traveled.
The neurologist’s waiting room helped me see that I have been blessed with a precious child. He is happy, loving, and healthy. He has brought me innumerable moments of joy and pride. It also showed me that there are many people out there facing a tougher battle than me, or who are less equipped to play the hand that has been dealt to them — people who don’t have a supportive family or a faith in God. I’ve also learned that helping and being there for others can be a tremendous source of comfort and strength for me. Seek to be a blessing to someone who is hurting, especially if you are hurting, too. There is healing to be found, and the greatest blessing will be yours.