Posted in Living Peacefully

Visions of Sparrows

Last night we had friends for supper for a “visioning session” of sorts for our new non-profit. To be honest, going into the evening I was quite overwhelmed by the prospect of having a vision for anything other than my pajamas and a Netflix binge. Everything within my life has seemed to become a monumental project of epic proportion.

Down to one car, we are struggling to share a commute spread apart by 30 miles and the sprawling city of Atlanta. It is Noah’s senior year and there is much to do to ready him for his next transition – not to mention securing him a vehicle for purchase so that he can participate in a work-study program after the new year. Everything at our rental home is broken, leaking or caving in. It doesn’t seem the wise time to begin another project of any size.

Thankfully, it didn’t take very much discussion to be reminded of why The Sparrow’s Nest needs to come to be. Because everyone around the table has decided to live a daily life tightly connected to their value system, we could laugh at being called “a liberal” for taking public transit to work. We bemoaned the impact poor nutrition, as well as food deserts, are having on communities. Then we confessed how many times a day we might actually make a grocery store run simply out of convenience. As we practiced our faith out loud around our supper table, many of the conversations I’ve had with my students replayed in my mind.

While playing out on the playground – “Ms. Vangie, where do the weeds come from?”

At Farm Day when seeing a goat – “What kinda dog is that Ms. Vangie?”

When inspecting a fresh chicken egg – “You mean they come from inside a chicken?”

As we reviewed farm animals – “Are chickens just ducks with fancy hair or are they different all together?”

And my favorite – “So what do worms do anyway?”

More than just “curious by nature,” these children are seeking understanding so as to make something a value of their very own. Their questions belie a need to desire to more fully comprehend and experience the world around them. But the platform for these conversations doesn’t naturally exist – it must be intentionally created.

I want to explain the life cycle of seeds and plants as a part of God’s continual renewal of this good Earth. I yearn to have the time to really look at dogs, goats, ducks and chickens and talk about the wonderful differences of creation. And I want to show them what worms do, what healthy soil is and tell them about our role as partners in creation.

My friends reminded me that I want to build a place for our kids to play in nature, learn about their role in creation care and discover what it means to “live justly.” I want the sparrows to have a nest. It is my dream that at The Sparrow’s Nest children will…

  1. Have a safe place to learn and grow.
  2. Learn to care for creation through sustainable agricultural and consumer practices.
  3. Learn the value of small things, such as small acts of love, kindness, and justice. 
  4. Experience being part of a membership with one another and with creation. 
  5. Develop and practice tools for peacemaking and reconciliation. 

Gathering a group of kids together a few times a week won’t reverse climate change, but it might help shape a worldview toward peaceful living alongside creation. I suppose my Netflix binge can wait after all.

 

Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Unmet Goals: An IEP Story

Our Individualized Education Plan turns 15 years old this year. While most of my time now is spent looking toward our immediate future and how we will transition out in just 18 months time, I always get reflective after our annual meeting. This year was no different.

I was surprised to find, as we were cleaning up old language and editing parts of this adolescent document, that many of our goals are no longer needed. We no longer need mathematics goals. His writing goal that was once in place because of such weak expression is obsolete because his teacher notes that he now “writes with voice.” Because he is reading at or above grade level, reading goals could also be deleted. In general, Noah’s 3.5 grade point average has marked him as a success of the Special Education System. This child who was once predicted to never read, write, or speak is now expected to receive college scholarships.

But some of our goals still go unmet. Objectives are still in place to assist with general anxiety in the classroom. Articulation goals may stay in place for Speech because the “r sound” still eludes. And the ever-daunting Social Skills Objectives remain as they have for longer than I can remember.

Among them, “Noah will initiate conversation with peers….”

As the team honestly assessed Noah’s lack of interest in this area, one of his teachers spoke up with a story that still has me pondering. It seems that not long ago Noah witnessed an accident in the hallway. One of his peers accidentally tripped another student as they knelt in the hall to adjust their books. The boy who fell became immediately angry and moved toward the other with raised voice, ready to fight.

Noah’s teacher said, “Before I knew what was happening, Noah stepped out between them and began to try and diffuse the situation. Noah said, ‘We all need to relax. He didn’t do this on purpose. I saw it; it was unintentional. This was just an accident so we don’t need to fight about it.’”

Noah the Peacemaker, unwilling to “initiate a conversation with peers” (a.k.a. small talk), is completely willing to speak into the middle of conflict to stop violence and make amity. Everyone smiled and a silent understanding was reached that perhaps this unmet goal wasn’t the tragedy it seemed.

Noah will speak up when it is necessary. He will speak truth. He will speak reconciliation. He will speak harmony. He will speak resolution. He will speak compromise. He will speak peace.

But he doesn’t do small talk. This goal remains unmet. And I think I am good with that.