Stories

Welcome to Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-to try to help people who have 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 Colosseum, Michangelo's 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 say. "What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for 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 horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. 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. Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're 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." The pain of that will never go away, because the loss of that dream is a 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.

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.


The Water Bearer

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot would arrive only half full.

For a full two years, this task was carried on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and was miserable, that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

I am so ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out, all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts, the pot sadly stated.

The bearer calmly said to the pot, Did you notice that there are flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you have watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate our table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace our house?

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have, that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You have just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.


On Halloween...

Tonight a lot of creatures will visit your door. Be open-minded. The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills. The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues. The child who does not say trick-or-treat or thank you might be shy or non-verbal. The child who looks disappointed when he sees your bowl might have an allergy. The child who isn't wearing a costume at all might have SPD (sensory processing disorder) or autism. Be nice. Be patient. It's everyone's Halloween...