I would like to share with you “Welcome to Holland,” an essay by Emily Perl Kingsley, the mother of a child with special needs.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability—to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this . . .
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!” you [ask]. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a . . . place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around . . . and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills . . . and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy . . . and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away . . . because the loss of that dream is a very, very, significant loss.
But . . . if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things . . . about Holland.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.
The past year-and-a-half, I have had the privilege of “appreciating Holland” on my journey as a personal care attendant. The individual I take care of is nonverbal. God has used her life to bring people in the community to Christ and bless families with a center for respite.
She has a great sense of humor, holds no grudges, and she is a woman of strength and perseverance. God is glorified through her, and I learn from her daily. When I earned my degree in special education, I knew that anything related to the field would be challenging, but I was quickly awakened to a reality I had never experienced.
The American Community Survey noted that in 2015 there were 39,996, 900 individuals—of all ages— reported to have a disability in the United States. Also, “. . . nearly 50% (46.6%) of parents with children that have special needs said they refrained from participating in a religious activity because their child was not included or welcomed.”
If churches are not equipped or willing to welcome and support families and individuals with disabilities, who will come alongside them to show them the love of Christ and point them to God? There is a need.
Please prayerfully join me in considering what each of us can do in our local churches to reach out and show God’s love. Appreciating Holland is not hard; let’s not miss what Holland has to offer!
Grcevich, Stephen. “What Are the Stats on Disability and the Church?” (Feb. 9,2016)
What are the stats on disability and church?
Kingsley, Emily. “Welcome to Holland.” (1987) http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html
Accessed Nov. 16, 2017.
Erickson, W., Lee, C., and von Schrader, S. “2015 Disability Status Report: United
States.” Ithaca, NY: Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at the Cornell University ILR
School (YTI). http://www.disabilitystatistics.org/StatusReports/2015-PDF/2015-StatusReport_US.pdf
4 Questions for Evaluating an Event
You FINALLY reach the end of an event and you collapse at your desk in exhaustion. You’re surprised you can even find your desk after having to navigate around pool noodles, googly eyes, stacks of books, and a pizza box that has been there since sometime last month…..or was it the month before that?
A tiny hysterical laugh comes out of your mouth and you quickly clap your hand over your lips. Nobody should be that happy that the event is over.
Your office door cracks open and the last woman to leave is that woman. The one who bustles in looking like she’s as fresh as a spring daisy. She’s carrying bags of who knows what. She beams at you and says, “oh my goodness, what a precious time this has been! I can not wait until next year! Sign me up now!” She then places the bags she’s been carrying on the last empty floor space and skips (yes, skips! The woman is actually skipping!) out of your office humming the song you haven’t been able to get out of your head all week.
You put your head down on your desk, narrowly missing the gob of silly putty, and allow yourself to give way to semi-hysterical laughter. The only thought you have in your overwhelmed exhausted head is, “next year, the woman said next year….”.
Okay, we’ve all been there. Whether we’re talking about VBS, a 9 month mid-week program, camp, Easter, or even just one of “those” Sundays…. we’ve been there. We’ve survived to the end of it and somebody needs to prop us up on the couch with an ice cream sundae and a good book because we deserve it. And you truly do.
I don’t know about you but when I reach the end of something the last thing I want to do is look back. If I survived I want to move into recovery and celebration. I do not want to watch the replay version and critique myself and the event. However, that is exactly what I need to do.
As much as I hate evaluating I have found it to be invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.
It’s takes intentionality and preparation. I begin thinking about evaluating before the event actually happens. With VBS I put our evaluation meeting on the calendar before we even start VBS. It’s that important.
So dear kidmin, stumin, fammin, or just plain min peeps I encourage you to evaluate. Gather your team and talk about it. For VBS we’ll give every one of our volunteers an evaluation and then we’ll pull the leadership team together to go through them and our own evaluations. We make notes and when it comes around to start planning the event again we pull those notes out. It’s shocking that the things I’m sure I will never forget, (like the fact that we didn’t turn the air on soon enough one day and it got over 90 in the sanctuary) that surely are burned into my memory FOREVER, are quickly forgotten. God’s mercy? Perhaps.
Always, always, always look for the God moments as you evaluate. It’s easy to look at what went wrong, what didn’t run smoothly, where we failed. It’s much more of a treasure hunt to see God at work in the midst of our failures. Not only will looking for those God moments bless your heart, they communicate to your team that He’s the most important aspect of the event. Help your team mine for the nuggets of God’s blessings. Point to Him as you evaluate.
4 great evaluation questions:
1. What aspect(s) of this event did you think went GREAT!?
2. What aspect(s) of this event could have gone better?
3. As a leadership team, how could we have better equipped you to have an amazing experience serving our kids (teens, adults, families, etc)?
4. Where did you see God at work (in your life, the life of a kid, the life of someone else) in this event?
Keep it simple, keep it short, keep it pointed on the ONE who, blessedly, doesn’t ever fail and who always is at work regardless of what we do well or….not so well.
And PS. Leave your office a mess, go home, kiss your family, crawl into bed with ice cream, and relax. Evaluation is best done 2-4 weeks after the event, and after you’ve had some sleep.