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THE WORLD OF BECKY MYERS

Ellen Myers

My daughter Becky, 19, has Downs' Syndrome and an l.Q. of around 40. She attends the special education program for "Train-able Mentally Handicapped" in the Wichita, Kansas public school district, A few days ago I met with the principal, teachers, workshop supervisor, social worker, psychologist and nurse of Becky's school (the so-called "I.E.P." conference) to determine her placement during the next three years,

All who deal with Becky agree that she has an outstanding sense of neatness. In her room, her clothes closet and dressers, her school locker, desk and workshop place everything is always in perfect order. She thrives on a fixed activity schedule: Monday evening her hair is washed, Tuesday and Friday is bath time, Wednesday is "church night" complete with children's choir (Becky is an enthusiastic and good singer). Thursday Mother fixes fish, Friday we have our spaghetti dinner, Saturday morning means watching children's cartoons on TV and lunch of Mexican food (always in the same restaurant), Sunday, of course, means Sunday School and church, and usually lunch at "MackyDonald's," Saturday and Sunday Mother fixes special breakfasts for Becky: two poached eggs with orange juice, toast and jam on Saturday, waffles on Sunday. It is fun to share Becky's undisguised joy in good, God-given, tasty food, and she never neglects to say grace before meals.

Becky loves to watch the same video programs time after time in weekly rotation. She prefers action stories with a clear plot, true heroes and villains (the favorite: the old musical "Oliver!" with Ron Moody as Fagin). She likes to have Mother right there with her doing some kind of needlework, but will graciously assent to Mother's having to do other work or talking to visitors if needed, How easygoing Becky is in her daily life with others, right along with her insistence upon regular schedule and personal order and cleanliness! Becky also has a happy sense of humor, as her school psychologist discovered: they have taken to greeting each other by "wrong" names as their own private joke.

Becky does very well in the workshop, bringing home excellent report cards and notes every day. She is diligent in classroom activities as well, wanting to keep constructively busy at all times. At home Becky sorts out and puts away all the laundry. She helps with dusting, vacuuming, fixing of simple meals, setting and clearing the table, and gardening. She takes care of all her personal grooming very nicely, except for hair washing and styling.

Because Becky has a large family right in town and regular fellowship in a large local church, she enjoys plenty of interaction with other people. She has attended school with most of her classmates ever since kindergarten, and every client in her workshop is handicapped like she. The people at our church are exceptionally warm and open, constantly show love and concern for each other and, praise God, have the right priorities in unconditionally accepting the handicapped, How they love Becky, and she them! Even at the Special Olympics, the only competitive event Becky takes part in, the tension of normal people in competition against each other is absent because the athletes are too "stupid" to be upset when someone else takes first place.

All this makes for a totally familiar, sheltered and loving world where everyone is friendly and no one presents a threat. Although this is true for all the children and workers in the program, everyone at the conference agreed that Becky is especially outgoing, cheerful and loving towards all people she meets. Our one fear for our guileless affectionate Becky is that she might become the innocent victim of a stranger with lust or violence in his heart. She has never met such a one and cannot comprehend our "normal" sin. She will never understand the villains in her videos: why does Bill Sykes in "Oliver!" murder kind Nancy who loves him so devotedly and selflessly? The only "solution" we can think of is to warn Becky against all strangers and to keep her supervised and sheltered at all times, This is the closest shadow of man's fallenness and sin over her life, Because she is surrounded by so many loving relatives and friends, she is hardly if at all aware of always living in "protective custody."

Finally, Becky dearly and totally loves and trusts Jesus. Recently she fell down the front steps of our house and broke her ankle, a compound, painful fracture needing an operation, four days in the hospital, two months in a cast and weeks of physical therapy. Through it all not one word of self-pity or blame against God or man came from Becky's lips; instead, much prayer and constant thankfulness for God, doctor, nurses and therapists. She cried only a few times during the first few days when the acute pain became too great, There was one day, shortly after release from the hospital, when a huge poster arrived from her friends at her school and workshop and was fixed to the wall by her bed. That evening Becky suddenly said in awe, "I will walk again--I will see my friends again," and then wept convulsively for some minutes in Mother's arms. She had thought she would never walk again and never see her friends again after the accident! Then came tearful yet joyful prayer of thanks to Jesus for being with her and healing her. Her thanks and love spilled over to doctor, nurses and therapists. In the end everyone in the clinic looked forward to her visits. Truly Becky "walks worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing,... strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy" (Colossians 1:10-11). Her patience and bravery through it all were exemplary.

Becky was called to sit in at the school conference, and she kept looking at Mother to see her reaction to what was said about herself. In the end, when Mother turned to Becky to tell her from a heart overflowing with thanks: "Becky, Mother is very happy with you!" Becky beamed with joy too great for words. Even so it will be with us when our Heavenly Father can tell us, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:21,23). Among Becky's gifts from God are cheerfulness, neatness, a sense of beauty, humor and discipline, perseverance, fine motor coordination in mechanical tasks, courage, patience, and joyfulness in trouble. God gave her good people to teach her, befriend her and bring out the best in her. (How we thank Him for her Sunday School and children's group teachers at church, and for the beloved friends who shopped for weeks to find a "Light Brite" toy they knew she loved!) God blessed her mother with acceptance and love for her, Becky for her part has given her Lord abundant increase and is His blessing and reward to all who know her.

This is the world God her Creator made for Becky. It is a sheltered world in the midst of loving and beloved people. It is a world of blessed simplicity and humility, where the life of Christ abounds in Becky herself in sickness as in health, It is a peaceful, orderly and joyful world of living moment by moment in surrender to God's will, for Becky is incapable of planning her own future or even the next day. And so are we, if we but realized it! Would that we too could practice, as does Becky by God's design, the blessed way of Christ which "opens step by step before us" (Proverbs 4:12, literal translation from the Hebrew). The danger is the evil in the hearts of sinful "strangers," to which Becky, thank God, can hardly if at all give "informed consent," for the original sin in her heart is almost entirely disabled by her "handicap" in God's good will. Her world would be totally good and safe without the possibility of evil contact from the "outside." And, yes, there is the possibility of accidents, pain and sickness, but family, friends, fellow believers, and medical personnel stand by to help, and have helped.

In Becky's joyful, childlike simplicity, humility and love we see a picture of what we all should be spiritually, in Christ. Her world is not like the world at large, nor is it the world of every mentally handicapped person. Nevertheless it does really exist in its unique love, joy, harmony and goodness. As such it points to the eternal home intended by God for us men. That eternal home is like Becky's world yet incomparably better, for "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9). We who belong to Him now will live there forever with our Creator and adoptive Father in each other's love made perfect in Christ's holiness. In that world there will be no more sickness or pain, abolished along with sin and all its effects. The goal of God's original creation is just this. We cannot guarantee that Becky's world here and now will be safe from the lust and violence of evil strangers exploiting her innocent love. From God's eternal, restored and perfected Paradise, however, all evil "strangers" will be banished forever.

Note: For earlier lessons learned from and through her daughter in the past, see Ellen Myers' articles "The Mentally Retarded--The Least of Our Brethren" and "Special Education Lessons from the Biblical Creation Perspective" in CSSH Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 1 (Fall 1984).

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