I had a working lunch meeting today at one of my old haunts near the university. I arrived early and immediately realized that the only other people in the cafe were a group of adults with special needs. I said hello, grabbed a menu and quietly watched the group and its staff from my seat by the window.
Not many minutes later, the group started to leave and one of the two staff members yelled to a group member who was walking out the door, "Don't you want to get a magazine? Take whichever ones you like." Then he pulled another member of the group toward him, gave him a hug and said the same thing about the magazines to him. His voice was loving and gentle, and I was overwhelmed with some emotion I cannot begin to name - happiness, gratitude, relief? While I had been observing this group, I had been judging too. I thought I would "catch" the staff say a mean word or act inappropriately with their special group.
Just before this staff member closed the door to leave, I knew I had to say something to him. It would be a missed and regretted moment. "I have a special needs child and I worry for my son when he gets older. You were so kind just now." I started to cry and my words ran together, but he understood what I was trying to say to him. This stranger hugged me and said, "With people like us around, you don't have to."
There are angels that walk among us. You just have to open your eyes a little wider to see their wings.