The phone rang. It was my friend, Maria. “Joyce,” she gasped. There was breathless urgency in her voice, “they said Elijah is on the spectrum.” He had been diagnosed with PDD-NOS.
Immediately a hundred different memories flooded back to me. I met Maria before autism was a part of either of our lives. I remembered standing in the back of the room with her at our Bible study, each bouncing a restless baby boy on our hip. We looked on at Nikki and Bethany sitting and chatting while Eden and Adelyn played quietly on the floor – the difference between boys and girls we unwittingly joked.
I remembered how she and Eli had visited us when we initially became concerned about Luke. “Look at them! They are the same.” Maria declared as she demonstrated that Elijah also did not respond to his name or speak.
I remembered the letter I reluctantly wrote to her after Luke was finally diagnosed, expressing my concern that Elijah may have PDD-NOS, but what were the odds that in our small circle of friends there could be two spectrum children?
Now, over a year later, Elijah’s diagnosis came. As I spoke to Maria, Nick called Eli and we prayed with them and reminded them of the blessing Elijah is in their lives. He was the same baby that she had carried for nine months, the same child they had brought home from the hospital and nurtured for the past four years, the one who had brought them countless moments of pure joy, and the very one that had held Maria’s hand as she walked into the doctor’s office that afternoon. Elijah hadn’t changed because of his diagnosis.
We made plans to meet with them for dinner in a couple of days to talk. Nick and I were anxious for the opportunity to minister to them in the unique way that God had equipped us. This was a moment that God had called us to. We left the house filled with a sense of purpose.
What conspired that evening took us both by surprise. Maria and Eli turned the tables on us, and rather than us ministering to them, they supported and encouraged us. Eli even insisted upon paying for dinner – I would have eaten lighter if I would have known he was going to do that! I don’t think I can adequately express how much that meant us. I can only imagine that their own circumstances had moved them with empathy for us.
My friendship with Maria has grown so much since that day, and her generous spirit continues to uplift and amaze me. They are a family of simple means. Eli diligently works two jobs to support his household, and Maria creatively finds ways to make the family dollars stretch as far as possible. Yet, there is never a shortage of charitable giving. Maria is ever hospitable in opening her home to me, always attempting to serve me a meal whenever I visit, no matter how ardently I protest.
I rarely leave her home empty-handed. She gives unprompted of whatever she has in abundance to fill-in where I have need – shoes, clothes, baby wipes – all the while, she and Eli continue to support their church with financial gifts and acts of service.
I can attest in my own life, that doing without can be a great reminder of how little you truly need. Time and again, I have witnessed that those who have been the most generous to me are not those who have great things, but those who do great things with what they have – in many cases, those who are struggling themselves. They allow their own experiences to stir them to compassion and self-sacrifice.
For generous people, like Maria and Eli, there is always enough to share.