***I’m so excited to share with you an article written by a guest blogger, Leo Dufresne, who is a fiction author in California I met virtually a couple of weeks ago. As Providence would have it, Leo and I found out we had something really incredible in common – a special needs family member. Leo’s granddaughter, Ava, was born with Septo Optic Dysplasia (SOD), which caused her to be legally blind. Leo knows firsthand the gift that these kids possess in their hearts, and especially in their ability to reach to the depths of a person quite naturally. Read on to discover one such incident (and grab some tissues).***
Have you ever watched an amazing athlete and just been mesmerized? Not in the midst of routine greatness, but performing a spectacular athletic feat, a so-called “Sports Center Moment.” If you have it on video, you simply must play it back again and again and ask yourself, how did they do that? Of course they spent years perfecting their craft, but in the end, you know God just blessed them with a special gift. This is the year of the Summer Olympics, and I’m sure there will be many such events that will forever stick in our mind’s eye.
Ask any family member of a special needs child, and they will quickly share their angel’s Sports Center Moment – the time, or more likely times, their little one’s kindness brought to tears the most hardened of adults.
Six-years ago I was blessed with my first granddaughter, Ava. She is beautiful through and through. Ava has a rare condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia (SOD). One of the chief characteristics of this condition is underdeveloped optic nerves. Ava has sight in only one of her eyes, and it’s quite limited. She’s considered legally blind.
As with most blind children, Ava learned to see the world through her hands. When she was a baby, she was particular about who held her and even more picky about anyone holding her hands. No one likes to wear a blindfold for any length of time, do they?
After a year of incessant grandfatherly bragging, four ladies from my office were crowded in a conference room with my family. I remember the event like it was yesterday. The ladies ooh-ed and ahh-ed. Ava was as cooperative as any infant can be, but Jessica, my daughter, held Ava close, watchful for her reactions to strangers crowding her space. The polite chit-chat continued for a few minutes, after which one of the ladies, Mary Anne, asked if she could hold Ava. Before we could kindly inform her that Ava didn’t really like to be held by anyone, let alone strangers, my granddaughter was in her arms. Not just in her arms, but Ava had her head resting on Mary Anne’s shoulder like it was the most natural thing in the world! My family stared in disbelief. This was completely out of character for Ava.
Ava stayed in Mary Anne’s arms for several minutes. The rest of the get-together was filled with more polite conversation. When I walked my family out of the office building, we were all in amazement. Ava had never been like that with a stranger before.
That night I received an email from Mary Anne. It turned out that unbeknownst to the rest of us, her brother had died earlier that week. She was quietly and privately grieving her loss. She told me that holding Ava had been an amazing balm for her hurting heart.
A blind girl saw what the rest of us sighted folks had missed! She sensed that there was pain in the room, and she hugged on Mary Anne. Like an athlete who rises above pain in a competition, Ava set aside her own comforts. Special needs children are truly the superstars of human compassion. They have an uncanny ability to reach deep, deep inside another person and bring out the person’s joy, sadness, concerns – dare I say, their soul? Ava’s hug that day was a gold medal performance that I will never forget.
Text Copyright 2016 Leo Dufresne, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright 2015 “Medals” by ionasnicolae on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.
About the Author
The son of a career Air Force serviceman, Leo spent his childhood living the nomadic life of a military brat. Having survived the constant uprooting, Leo draws upon the time spent in the four corners of the US as well as Europe to develop his characters. Leo has finally settled down in San Diego, California with his wife of over thirty years. Aside from writing, and engineering (the necessary day job), he enjoys time with his children/grandchildren, running distance races and all things baseball.