Jul 27, 2008

A Special Spirit

As I sat in the foyer, holding Alyssa crying on my lap, I wondered why I had been chosen to be her teacher. Alyssa was born with Sotos Syndrome. She was a beautiful little girl with many challenges.

The primary presidency decided she needed some one-on-one attention, so in addition to her regular primary teacher, they called me to be her teacher. My assignment was simply to be with Alyssa while the other teacher presented the lesson, which Alyssa and I rarely heard.

I was instructed not to get her mother unless it was absolutely necessary. The first few weeks we alternated between sitting in the foyer, Alyssa screaming on my lap, and going to the bathroom to wipe her nose which was constantly running from crying.

I received many looks of sympathy from other adults who walked by. They all appeared to be glad it was me and not them who had to deal with Alyssa’s behavior. It was difficult, and I felt helpless. The first few weeks Alyssa’s mom finally came out to rescue me. I think the whole ward could hear Alyssa crying.

If Alyssa’s mom brought her to primary, we never even made it into sharing time, because she cried and refused to leave her mom. When her mom finally tore herself away, Alyssa was left screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. I finally figured out that if I took her outside, she seemed to calm down, so we spent a lot of time walking around the church outside, talking about Heavenly Father and all the beautiful things He created for us. Slowly, Alyssa seemed to be warming up to me.

Eventually, Alyssa and I were the best of friends. She always came to find me after sacrament so we could go to class together. She even stayed in class and participated, as much as she was able to, in the lesson.

Her mother and I were cub scout leaders for the wolf den, and Alyssa started coming to scouts every week. She proudly wore her mom’s scout shirt and joined in all the activities. Alyssa’s mom said she talked about me all week, wanting to know when I was coming over to her house.

I came to realize that although I had been called to help Alyssa, the calling was more for what she could do for me than what I could do for her. I was at a tough juncture in my life. I was in the process of repenting for some serious mistakes, and I wasn’t feeling very worthy or very loved. Alyssa’s smile filled my heart each week. She needed me, and relied on me to feel safe in primary. And I needed her. I finally figured out that if someone as sweet, loving, and innocent as Alyssa loved me, then I must be worth loving. She helped me heal from years of heartache.

It was a privilege to be her anchor, to keep her safe from the perceived threats in primary and to feel her healing love in return. She will always hold a special place in my heart. I now know why Heavenly Father sends his most special spirits to the earth clothed in bodies and possibly minds that are not quite whole. It is for the benefit of those of us who are privileged to be part of their world.

Thanks Alyssa! I’ll never forget you.

*Names were changed to protect privacy.


Nichole Giles said...

What a beautiful story. It's amazing what children can teach us, isn't it?

Thanks for sharing.


Jeff said...

As a father of a beautiful Angel child (my little Katy also has down syndrome) and a brother to another angel, (my sister has down syndrome also, I found your words very encouraging. Katy seems to love Primary and goes to class eagerly every week but loses interest fast. Her special teacher is some one she loves very much. We (as her parents) are so very grateful for the opportunity this gives us to enjoy our meetings and learn. This arrangement also gives Katy the opportunity to learn and grow, My sister is older and is currently suffering in the early stages of Alzheimer's, she still enjoys church and seeing all of her friends. Thanks so much for the post and good luck!

Tristi Pinkston said...

This was beautiful, Kim -- thank you!

Cindy Beck said...

This was such a touching story ... thanks so much for sharing it with us, Kim.

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