So, as promised, I’ve got to write about the ConnectAbility Prom that we had the amazing opportunity to attend on our first night back in Georgia. But, as a back story, I’d be crazy not to include the amazing journey my sister has been on to make this dream a reality. Just about as long as I can remember, my oldest sister, Jacque, has made the Special Needs community part of her life. It started in high school (maybe middle school?!) when she volunteered to be the Sunday school buddy for the sweetest little girl, Macy, who had special needs, but still wanted to participate. And the fire was lit. She went on to volunteer at respite events, we picked up the most adorable senior adult man with Down Syndrome weekly for church when she could start driving, and when she got to college, of course the only path to take for her was Special Education. While pursuing her degree, she began a respite ministry- Sidekicks- for families to leave their kids or “adult kids” with special needs for a much needed break once a month. She graduated, began teaching, but stayed in the same college town and her ministry continued to grow, and in 2010, Sidekicks became just one facet of a new non-profit organization, ConnectAbility, inc! (check out the whole story www.connectabilityinc.org)
A few years ago, she organized a Prom for the older teen and adult participants who may have not had the chance to attend their Prom in High School. It’s amazing to see the community participate, as the sororities at the University donate gowns from formals, and donors from all over the community make this amazing dream a reality for these kids…and their parents. This year’s prom was the biggest and best yet! It was a fitting year to have Star Wars as the theme, and they took it to the next level! I’m so not a Star Wars expert, but apparently there are groups of fans that have amazing costumes (like the GA501st Garrison…seriously, check it out) and attend all kids of charity events in said costumes. The place was bumping with remixed Star Wars songs, life Sized cut outs of Luke Skywalker, a giant R2D2 balloon…..and real Storm Troopers, Chewbacca, and other characters that I can’t name (again, no expert).
It was the night that we flew into Atlanta, and I was a little cautious of taking Titus straight there after his first flight since we’ve been home, and his first time meeting so many new family members. But he was doing great and Jacque really wanted us to stop by, if only for a few minutes. We stepped through those doors and it was so.awesome. Music, fog, lights, all the Star Wars craziness….but the people! They were having the absolute BEST time!!!!!! The big kids were completely terrified of all the Storms Troopers, and other creepy guys (some of them were super creepy!), but not Titus!!! He could not contain his excitement dancing with a Storm Trooper to none other than Gangnam Style to get him warmed up to the dance floor! We took all the kids to get some snacks until all the characters left, and then we all got on the dance floor. And there I was, surrounded by my family (super rare occurrence!), watching my kids and their cousins dancing the night away with so many special friends. Friends with Down Syndrome, friends with CP, friends in wheelchairs, friends with hearing aids and iPads to communicate with, friends with autism, “typical” friends, all together. I stood back watching and got so choked up, and I couldn’t help but think this was truly a little slice of Heaven.
I had to laugh thinking of it…heaven, a place with blaring hip hop beats, a fog machine, dj, Storm Troopers, and stage lights?! Well, no, maybe not, but yes! Heaven, a place where everyone belongs, everyone is free, everyone is celebrating, and the joy is palpable. And I thought, isn’t that a funny thought? The kingdom of God, what will it look like when it comes to fruition?! I think we all have our ideas- be they theologically founded or not- but I’m not sure we have any idea what it will really be like. What if those at the ConnectAbility Prom- those special friends with pure joy, abandon, and freedom!- look more like heaven than we ever thought?!
It reminded me of Princess Fiona on Shrek (I know, I know…just go with it). Remember how she’d turn into an Ogre every night, as part of a spell that was placed on her? And once that spell was broken, she’d be free to be who she really was? And guess what, she became that cute Green Princess full time in the end- so unexpected! We have such a boxed in expectation of beauty, normal, and even eternity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that disability, as we know it, is the product of living in a world broken by sin, BUT it doesn’t really surprise me that He would use the “least of these” to show us a little glimpse of Heaven, either Because, if watching two special needs cousins- once orphans on the other side of the world- dancing together and filled with joy, as beloved son and daughter, isn’t a little piece of Heaven, I just don’t know what is….adoption is the Gospel. This road is hard and narrowly lonely some days, but I think of these times and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
If you don’t have any “special” friends in your world, make some. I promise they’ll change you, teach you and give you so much more than you could ever imagine. (And also, maybe their mama just needs a break!)