I am a the parent of a child who has special needs. I heard you. I read the letter you wrote to me and my tribe. Thank you. From all of us, thank you.
I thought I should write back. You see, this past Sunday I missed Mass again. I don't usually. Honestly. But yesterday it was more than I felt like I could do. It is a catch 22, you know. I need the grace from the sacrament to make it to the sacrament. (Like the coffee catch: I need coffee before I can make coffee.)
Going to Church is not easy. Sometimes it takes all I have to get out of the house. I worry that the seasonal bugs will land my sweetheart in the hospital. I worry that her loud breathing will put her on display. I worry that I will hear hushed disapproval of my less than perfect family. I worry that Sarah's sisters will hear some obnoxious comment about how their sister looks. Or worse, that she will hear. She is four now, and she is more socially aware all the time.
I tell other moms whose kids stand out that a smile is the best defense. I tell them that most of the time you can disarm rude staring with a friendly hello. I tell my friends that most people need a connection; they need a little push to realize that we're just people. Normal people with normal feelings and normal needs. I tell them to pick their battles though, because it is exhausting. I choose to believe the best of most people, but I gotta tell ya, it takes a lot of energy to smile and say hello to someone who hurt me and my child, even accidentally.
Maura, I am looking for you in the pews. I don't want to hide with my eyes glued to the altar. I don't want to pretend it is just me and my immediate family in God's presence. I want to feel the community. I want to be in the community. That is why I am there. We are the body. We are, at times, broken, disjointed, and disoriented. In the Eucharist, we are one. In thanksgiving. In this blessed feast, this sacrifice, this joyful prayer, I am with you.
I've met you. Well, not you but the "we" you represented. We've been welcomed and loved. When you smile at my kids or greet them during the kiss of peace, we don't feel like outsiders. We don't feel excluded. We don't feel like a barely tolerated other. We feel unity. We feel love. When you look at me with a friendly smile or open the door because my hands are full, it is more than a simple gesture. It is a welcome, and I need it. When you invite my family out to lunch with the gang, even if we can't go because it is nap time after all, we feel the embrace of the community. I will try to remember that and to ask for help when I need it.
I know my child is beautiful. I am glad you can see it too. Your letter was a lifeline, and I needed it. Your words echo Paul's in his letter to the Romans. "Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God."