Raising four children means I have played nurse and caregiver for a long time. My Honey remembers the twenty plus times I have sat through his surgeries, including the most recent last week. Extended family knows I have cared for them when they needed me and over forty years’ worth of responsibilities have kept me busy in church and community. But it was Ashley, my noble beauty and firstborn, the child who never grew up—who has depended on me all her life to eat, to move, to be her voice—that raised the question in my mind of who is serving who.
In her tiny days, Ashley’s therapy incorporated 275 volunteers over three years time. The program required my attention every waking minute and Dale had to work four jobs to pay for it, so friends and neighbors assisted while they also did our laundry, cleaned our bathroom, and — believe it or not –brought us dinner five nights a week for two years straight.
Old and young appeared on our doorstep every single day, flush with optimism, eager for their assignment, anticipating another 2 hours with Ashley. Witnessing the joy of this self-appointed army as they watched her crawl or walk for the first time — the result of literally thousands of hours of incessant therapy — I began to see things the way the volunteers saw them: Ashley was not “unfortunate”; nor did they regard her as an “opportunity” or a “project”. Rather, they revered her as their “Teacher”, even “Mentor” in the ways of patience, endurance, and unconditional love.
That is when I began to wonder: what is it about a society that makes “HELP” a four-letter word? Why do we treasure our “independence” so much that many of us would rather die than “become a burden”? How is it that we assume the right to serve our fellow man, but mysteriously, never seem to need help from anyone else? Friend wants to bring us dinner (no-no, we’re fiiiiiiine). Neighbor offers to mow the lawn (noooo really, we’ve got it). Aunt and Uncle ask if they can take the children for an hour or two so we can nap (oh pleeeease don’t worry about me). And yeeeet – WHO is the first to fill up the calendar and empty the pocketbook with “good works”?
The big news, that Ashley has spent her forty years broadcasting (though she has never spoken a word), is that somebody has to be served in order for the rest of us to feel good about ourselves; somebody has to humble themselves so that the rest of us can grow; someone has to come to earth in challenging circumstances so that those around her can be proved.
Think on THIS: Even God expects us to serve Him! The LORD of the Universe asks for our help, allows our help, even commands our help. WHY does HE want OUR help?!
Could it be because He knows all progress is based in Community and Reciprocity?
I love how Superman, while catching Lois Lane mid-tumble from a skyscraper, says: “Don’t worry miss. I’ve got you.” She’s dumbfounded. “You’ve got me!” she cries. “Who’s got YOU?”
Indeed, who HAS got who? Would Superman be Superman without people to rescue? Supergirl Ashley has saved me and a multitude of other people, far more ordinary than she is, during her lifetime of “dependence”. In her frequent conversation with the angels, I’m sure those heavenly pals smile and exchange knowing glances every time she benevolently refers to all of us–her personal army–as “The Givers”.
Thank you for this post, Ramona. It is so helpful to put things in perspective like this and thank you for sharing more of your personal journey with Ashley.
I am one of those who struggles intensely with asking for help and yet I’m always ready to help someone else, sometimes to my own detriment. I have often wondered why it’s such an uphill battle. I’m just barely getting used to asking my own husband for help and we’re in our fifth year of marriage with two little ones! Your post reminded me that the blessing is in the giving, but someone has to receive in order to not cheat the giver of their blessing 🙂 What an incredible community you have to take care of you so well over an extended period of time!
Oh Jana-Lee, that is exactly right! A lesson few of us really ever learn! Bless you! xo
Oh, that Ashley girl! She is a such a treasure. I have been missing her so much lately–thinking of her often. I don’t know why it is so hard for me to accept help. Maybe if I think of letting someone help me as helping them, it would be easier. I love your thoughts on God letting us help Him. And you’re right. Community relies on us helping each other. It helps us love others to serve them. I will re-commit to not being so proud.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on precious Ashley. She is divinity personified – for so many reasons. And she is so blessed to have come to your home to fulfill her earthly role.
I LOVE this picture of her! Takes me back to all the fun we had pushing her down the marble hallway on her Cookie Monster scooter!
Love her – and you!
Thank you for such a beautiful message. I cherish the memories of choir practice when Ashley was there – especially when we were preparing for the temple dedication.
I, too, have a daughter with disabilities, and I will be forever grateful that she is part of my family. She has been a powerful influence for good all her life at home, school, church, and community. She loves people as they are without reservation, something I am still struggling to achieve.
Ramona, Thank you for this post. I, too, care for my son but in reality, he cares for me. I often race with him and as I push him uphill, I’m so tired. And then he pulls me downhill and I realize that we are a team. I could not do it without him no he without me. I have known that you have a daughter who has disabilities but I have never heard you talk about her. I am so glad you did! She sounds lovely. You are both so blessed to have each other. Thank you for all the good that you are putting out into the world.
Ramona, The Lord truly blessed you with angel Ashley. I believe because you’ pre-qualified for her before you were born Ramona. Your keen insight into children with special needs and their service to others is beautiful I miss being with my special needs students now that I’ve retired. Maybe the Lord knew I needed to be near them throughout my life for us to have our adopted granddaughter. I hope I can keep a positive outlook on the circumstances we are given as you have with Ashley. Thanks so much for sharing.