Saturday, October 25, 2008


The Miracle of Jay-Jay
Louise Tucker Jones

“He doesn’t look like the other boys,” Grandpa said as he viewed the blanketed bundle I held in my arms. He was right. James Ryan, whom we called Jay-Jay, with his skinny little legs, almost bald head, and tiny, slanted eyes, bore little resemblance to my other chubby babies with their full heads of hair. But I knew the comment went far beyond looks. Grandpa couldn’t accept the fact that Jay-Jay had Down syndrome and had mental retardation.

On subsequent visits, Pa-Pa, the name the other children used for their grandpa, ignored Jay-Jay. He picked him up once at a family reunion when it seemed to be expected for a family picture. Other than that, he never touched him, and looked upon him with something between pity and displeasure.

Then, one day, a miracle began. We were once again at a family reunion, and Jay-Jay, being the outgoing little boy he was at three years old, walked over to his grandpa and crawled onto his lap. Pa-Pa was a little shocked, but what could he do in front of all these people? This was his grandson. How could they understand that he hardly knew Jay-Jay?

Jay-Jay took his grandpa’s glasses out of his shirt pocket and placed them on his own face, upside-down, precariously perched on his short, pudgy nose. He looked at Pa-Pa and giggled, making Pa-Pa laugh, too. Soon, they were walking around the room, Jay-Jay leading Pa-Pa, a little smile on the older one’s face.

Their next encounter came months later when Pa-Pa decided to visit. Jay-Jay played the clown, making his grandpa laugh, and pick him up and throw him into the air.

Pa-Pa turned to my husband and said, “Why, he’s just like any other kid.”

We had tried to tell him, but Pa-Pa’s preconceived ideas and fears of the disabled had kept him out of his grandson’s life. But Jay-Jay, being an effervescent little boy, would not let him remain in darkness. With his love and actions, he showed Pa-Pa and others that they were missing out on some of God’s greatest blessings by not loving and caring for him.

After that day, a strong bond began to form. Pa-Pa found that Jay-Jay loved balloons and would have one waiting for him each time we came to visit--visits he now welcomed. Then he discovered that Jay-Jay was not only sweet, but ornery, and he loved pillow fights. So each visit would end up with pillows flying across the room. I never figured out which of the two enjoyed it most. Soon Pa-Pa began to telephone--supposedly to talk to my husband, who was now glowing in the new relationship between his father and son--but always insisting on speaking to his youngest grandson.

Although Jay-Jay has a severe speech articulation disorder, he can understand most of what is said to him. Yet he finds it difficult to form the words he wants to say, making communication difficult. Nevertheless, Pa-Pa always wanted to speak to him by phone, and Jay-Jay would laugh and talk in words that neither his dad nor I understood. Pa-Pa swore he understood every word.

The phone chats became a weekly ritual. Every Saturday morning, Jay-Jay knew it was the day to talk to Pa-Pa. Since it was long distance, they took turns calling. One week, Pa-Pa would call. The next week, all excited, Jay-Jay would make the call and talk until we made him hang up.

Through the years, Jay, as he is called today, and Pa-Pa continued those weekly phone calls, along with letters, cards, fishing trips, and frequent trips to Wal-Mart. They became “best buddies.”

When Jay was nineteen, his beloved Pa-Pa died unexpectedly. One of the hardest days of my life was watching Jay stand at his Pa-Pa’s graveside as he was presented the American flag that draped the casket. But one of the things I cherish most is knowing that Jay’s unconditional love built a bridge to his grandfather’s heart and changed both of their worlds forever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The Boy at Band Camp

BY: Molly Gaebler

Strains of Mariah Carey floated in the background as we held each other close and swayed to the rhythm of the music. I hadn’t expected us to be so intimate when I asked the guy who had been my best friend at summer camp to dance. But as my head rested on his shoulder and his arms wrapped around my torso, I realized that I had fallen head-over-heels for this guy. My timing had never been worse. It was the farewell dance at summer camp, the night before we left, and I was just realizing that I wanted to be with him. Furthermore, I had gone to middle school with him for the past two years, and I had never thought twice about the fact that I saw him literally six times a day. Then, he was just the annoying little boy who threw goldfish at my friends and me during lunch. But now he was the boy who would save me a seat at breakfast and write messages on my hand. The one with the cute smile and jokes that would make me giddy with laughter. And now I was dancing with him, the wonder boy. I had never been more content in my entire life. The song’s last notes faded out and we just stood, locked in our embrace. Neither of us wanted to move; the moment was too perfect. However, we were soon interrupted by the loud drumbeat of a Blink-182 song. We jumped apart, startled.

“Whoa,” he said, shyly smiling. “That scared me.” I smiled back at him and nodded in agreement. We were soon joined by a group of our friends and began jumping around to the muffled words of “All the Small Things.”

It was now 9:30 P.M., time for us to crawl into our sleeping bags and whisper under the pillows. I was walking back to my cabin, grinning from ear to ear in the dark. Unexpectedly, someone jumped onto my back, causing me to stumble. I looked up to see who had attacked me and it turned out to be my friends Beth and Kari.

“So... Molly!” Beth said to me, with a smirk on her face.

“Y... yes?” I stammered, turning red.

“You and Brian, eh?” teased Kari.

All I could do was smile and laugh, but that was enough to send my friends into squealing fits of, “Oh my GOD!” and, “I knew it!” Satisfied that they had pulled the latest gossip out of me, they pranced off to tell the rest of my cabin. I didn’t really care. They were all my best friends, and they would have found out sooner or later. The next morning was concert day. We all had rehearsal in between packing our suitcases. I walked to the piano room for my ten o’clock run-through. I rushed through my piece and didn’t bother to stick around for my feedback. Instead, I left the amphitheater where the orchestra was rehearsing and joined a group of my friends who were exchanging phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

“Molly! You’re here!” said one of them.

“Yeah, I tried to get out of rehearsal as soon as possible,” I replied as I grabbed a handful of pretzels from a bowl on the bench.

We started talking about nothing in particular, laughing and joking about anything and everything. Suddenly, Elise shouted “Hey Molly! Look who it is!” and pointed to my right. Snapping my head around, I saw Brian strolling up the hill to the amphitheater. I blushed and waved and quickly turned back to the conversation. He joined us and I could feel the rickety bench we were sitting on sink lower with his weight. Everyone’s eyes were on me. I fidgeted with my bracelets while the silence grew.

“What’s going on?” he asked, with a sincerely confused look on his face. Out of fear that one of my friends would embarrass me in front of him, I jumped up, mumbled something about forgetting to pack my sweatshirt and ran off in the direction of my cabin. Even though nothing extremely unordinary had happened, I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed. I walked down to the beach instead of to my cabin and sat down on the sand. I felt like being alone for a while.

I wiped my tears on my sleeve while hugging all my friends. I couldn’t believe it was time to go home already! Our time together had gone by so fast. I would have to wait a whole year before I would see these people again, I reminded myself as I heaved my overflowing duffel bag into the trunk of the car. All around me, cameras flashed, pens were scribbling digits, and people sobbed into each other’s shoulders. Saying goodbye is always hard. But I was ready to go. I had seen everyone I needed to, until I heard my name being yelled from across the way.


I turned around to see who had called my name. My heart skipped a beat. It was exactly who I hoped it would be.

“Are you about to leave?” Brian asked.

I nodded. I was afraid to speak; afraid of what would come out of my mouth.

“So, I’ll see you at school then…” he said.

“Yeah, definitely!” I said, a little too enthusiastically.

“High school is a big place. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you, though,” I added.

“Okay, me too,” he said, with a slight smile.

I stepped in to give him a hug, one (I thought) he eagerly accepted. For a few seconds I felt the peaceful bliss that had made me so content the night before. The head on the shoulder, the hands on my back... it was completely comfortable. But it ended in hardly enough time for me to even begin to enjoy it.

“So I’ll see you later, then,” he said, and turned to leave.

“Yeah, later,” I whispered. “Umm, Brian?” He stopped and turned his attention back to me. “If you want to... you know... umm, like... get together... or something... before school starts... just give me a call... I’ll be around….” I stammered, my nerves trembling with anticipation.

He just looked at me standing in front of him, bright red and chewing my lips to death. Then he smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

After that, he turned and walked toward the parking lot. I watched his back get smaller and smaller until he disappeared behind a clump of trees. It was only then that I realized I was holding my breath.

Thursday, October 9, 2008



At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child." Then he related the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-need ed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart.

The b oys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three in the top of the ninth inning. Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat prope rly, much less contact with the ball. However, as Shay stepped to the plate, the pitcher recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, move in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both team started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone y elled, "Run to second, run to second!"

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on the their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All we screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"&nb sp; Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third," As shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feed screaming, "Shay, run home! Shay run to home" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the here who hit the grand slam. He had won the game for his team!

That day, said the father softly with tears rolling down his face, the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day.

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


May we never let the things we can't have, or don't have,
or shouldn't have, spoil our enjoyment of the things we do have
and can have.
As we value our happiness let us not forget it,
for one of the greatest lessons in life is learning
to be happy without the things we cannot or should not have.

Thursday, October 2, 2008



The Gift of Listening
But you must really listen. Don't interrupt, don't daydream, don't plan your response. Just listen.

The Gift of Affection
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.
The Gift of Laughter
Clip cartoons.
Share articles and funny stories.
Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

The Gift of Solitude
There are times when we want nothing
better than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those
times and give the gift of solitude to others.

The Gift of a Favor
Everyday, go out of your way to
do something kind.

The Gift of a Written Note
It can be a simple "Thanks for the help"
note or a full sonnet. A brief, handwritten note
may be remembered for a lifetime.

The Gift of a Compliment
A simple and sincere, "You look great in red,"
"You did a super job," or "That was a wonderful meal"
can make someone's day.

The Gift of a Cheerful Disposition
The easiest way to feel good is to extend
a kind word to someone.