So when we look at people, we see the differences in each person. No one is alike in any way, not even the so-called identical twins. I know it’s kind of hard to take, but it’s true.
As some of you are wondering why I have chosen to add certain people or groups as my friends in the friends’ list or followers of any social media. That is because I ministered in the outreach ministry called “The Special Gatherings”, which is the ministry for the mentally challenged folks.
Yes, those people are still people too, with abilities and talents and they are unique in every way, and no one is alike.
You see? I have been in the school for the retarded children (or exceptional education) in Tampa, Florida many years ago as a student from first grade to first part of fifth-grade. I didn’t get the benefit of wearing a pair of hearing aids until I was just nine years ago, and that is about when I was in fourth grade. I know it was late for me to catch up academically. I have learned so much from being with the mentally challenged children such as helping them and being an example to them that one can accomplish something in their own way. I did not know that word “retarded” even existed in my vocabulary until I was in Crestwood Elementary School’s fifth-grade special-education class.
Just soon after I was correctly diagnosed with being severely hearing impaired (now considered Deaf even if wear hearing aids), I had to take that IQ test all over again to verify that I indeed have an average intelligence. So I ended up being transferred from “Lavoy School for the Retarded Children” (they made have changed the name) to “Crestwood Elementary School” in 1975. Both schools are in Tampa, Florida. When I was transferred and mainstreamed; I had to do a lot of catching up especially academically such as language arts and mathematics. With the help of the three therapists (hearing, speech and vision) tutoring me throughout the rest of the school year; I have gained so much knowledge about who I am and who I am with.
Of course, I was bombarded with so much bullying and discrimination regarding special-ed kids and I got the brunt of some of the taunts that the so-called normal kids just don’t understand. Yes, I was picked on for my hearing and visual impairments. Talk about ignorance!
Then, in sixth-grade, I was still in special education class and I was just about to be caught up with the other kids when it came to skills learned in that age-group. So I was held back in six-grade, but moved to the regular class system! I was given a whole slew of new skills to learn when it came to regular education. It has taken me a while to get used to them. Of course, I still get bullied or taunted.
So moving from the elementary schools to the junior high schools, I was in for surprise and I have to learn to do junior high school work. Amazing as how I was able to adapt accordingly… Adapt… Strange how this is the word that I’d most often use nowadays.
Then, getting into high school was a whole new ball game. Not only that I have more school work; but also have to move from the comprehensive classes to the regular classes. It was tough, but I have come through even with my hearing and visual difficulties. Those three therapists that I’ve mentioned before has helped me through thick and thin…
I have at last graduated from Leto Comprehensive Senior High School in 1985 at 917 of the few thousands of seniors graduating class. It’s not easy, but I have to challenge myself to move forward and learn new skills as I grow.
I enrolled myself into the Rehabilitation for the Blind in Daytona, Florida in order to learn to live independently as a visually impaired person. I have learned so much and have implemented the skills in my situation.
Then, I had gone to the Daytona Community College (now Daytona State College) to study Early Child Development and Education, which was much more challenging than the high school. I have graduated in 1992 with an Associates’ Degree in Child Development.
Sadly enough, no one wanted to consider hiring me… You know why? They’re afraid that they’ll be sued by parents whose child gets hurt of whatever in my care. Of course, it is discrimination, and they got away with it, but they will be judged.
Moving right along…. So I was led to teach a Sunday school at a church that we attended, and that’s the experiences that I needed in order to be useful in such a ministry. I have no idea that this was planed in the grand scheme of things. I have gone from teaching a children’s church to Sunday school to youth group and to the girls’ ministry. I have done puppet and clown ministries in between during Vacation Bible schools.
Then one day, “The Special Gatherings” choir came along in June of 1997. That was when the pivotal; “This is it!” has come. Then, I knew this was where I needed to be! So I talked with Linda G. Howard about volunteering, and she gave me a business card to call her anytime. After much thinking and confirmation; I called and volunteered. I have been with this “The Special Gatherings” ever since ministering as an elder and a teacher. I know that this been rewarding me as I was led through the time with “The Special Gatherings”
So whenever I added and looked at the people’s MySpace profiles(or any social media); I thought of the members of “The Special Gatherings”. For example; I see several and added the “Autism Awareness” profiles as my friends; I thought of the precious people of “The Special Gatherings” many of them cannot speak well, but we understand them from our hearts because they learn in different ways to put words in our hearts, or the “November is Epilepsy Awareness Month; I thought of the men and women of “The Special Gatherings” who have suffered the affects of the disease. Best of all; they are all unique people!
Yes, all of us are the unique people. I am thankful that I was brought into this ministry for the mentally challenged, and I’ve realized that I was brought full-circle with my journey, and bringing me back to where I would be needed.
You see? I felt that I knew where I will be when I was in the Lavoy School for the exceptional education and it is already decided that I would be volunteering my time and skills in “The Special Gatherings” eventually. And that eventuality was July of 1997.
I know. I will tell you more about “The Special Gathering” and the people within the ministry as time progresses. So I am thankful that I’m where I know where wanted to be.
So even the families and friends are unique in their own way. It how we treat them when we encounter them.
Graduation photo in 1992 at Daytona State College