The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house with mentally handicapped people was that their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my twenty years at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.
~Henri Nouwen from In The Name Of Jesus
In my earliest memory of Mrs. Jones she’s middle-aged. Her daughter Karen marches in the high school band with me.
But I don’t remember the much younger woman in the photograph I came across today in an old scrapbook.
I don’t remember how artfully she told the story of David and Goliath or how accurate her pitch while leading us in singing “Deep And Wide.” I don’t recall if she was a skilled character actor, going in and out of the different voices as she laid out each scene of the day’s story on her felt board. (Surely there was a felt board. I know there were graham crackers, red juice and a record player.)
Mrs. Jones probably had a degree in something, I imagine. Lots of experience and talent at this and that too. But what does a three year-old care? Or a mentally handicapped adult?
There are some people who will not, cannot be impressed by you today — who won’t remember you, who don’t want or need the most “valuable” things you have to offer them.
Show up anyway. And give them your own available self.
Thank you, Mrs. Jones. For juice and crackers and you.