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Upon Their Hands They Will Carry you
Page 31

Changing Directions

Rod and I were trying to make a decision for which direction we should go and what we should do next to help Rhonda.

"We’ve exhausted all our volunteers and finances. I’m sure living in this little, what one lady with a doctorate called "quaint," house gives us little reputation for being successful. We’ve lost all my shabby furniture we had in the bankruptcy, even my sewing machine." I was more concerned over that than anything.

"Yes, but look how well Rhonda is doing. She’s healthy, sleeping all night without waking in pain and she can read. Maybe not by the standards of the world around us are we accomplished in anything but in our own mind we know what has been done."

Rodney’s confidence in me as usual gave me the strength to move ahead. He had to do this so many times through the years and he was good at helping me this way. Sometimes I wondered about how he adopted my values so easily. His parents stepped in a different

circle than mine. They were all tied up in the ways of this oil town where we lived, not that this was wrong, but just different. I had been taught not to put materialism over more important things such as marriage, family and faith. I once asked him about how he was able to stay out of the world’s mode of thinking to go along with me.

His answer was that while in the service he had stood and watched farmhouses and farms of 200 years cultivation pushed over with dozers while the owners stood, wrung their hands and wept.

"Nothing is of permanence at all, anyway." He told me.

"I’ve been told there is a new, young teacher with a class for children who are disadvantaged in one way or another. They meet in the old Washington school building. I’m going to take Rhonda up there tomorrow." As easy as a person dips an oar in the water to change directions of a canoe so we did with our lives.

This old building we now approached with some reservation was all the young teacher had been able to retrieve for her students no one else believed could learn. It was obvious there were needed repairs and for part of her time the teacher had to take her class up a flight of stairs.

This woman was of a refreshingly healthy appearance. She had a complexion to speak of clean living and fresh outdoor exercise. Her rosy cheeks, down to earth apparel of clean cotton fabric, and unhurried personality was striking to say the least. Here was a person who was dedicated to what she was doing. One couldn’t help but believe she was totally capable of achieving anything she set her mind to do.

I brought Rhonda’s books so I could show this teacher how my girl had learned to read. The books were battered and worn from Rhonda trying to turn pages with her crippled fingers.

"Nose is nose, and toes are toes but nose is not toes," Rhonda read.

For the teacher, it couldn’t be known what had gone into getting Rhonda to this point but somehow the young woman was touched by the efforts of this little girl who read so carefully the book by its worn pages showed how hard she had worked at it. Rhonda’s little hands were just beginning to become somewhat twisted but already she had learned to make her right hand work for her to some extent.

The light chair I used for her was more like an upright wheelbarrow which leaned backward as I pushed her. The two large wheels on the back was what carried the chair. The front of it was simply a bar on the ground. Rhonda and her chair was a thing of interest to the other children and they gathered around her when their teacher told them to come introduce themselves.

Rhonda had been accepted into the little class of sweet, gentle children whose only problem was visited on them by some strange happenstance due to no choice of their own. They met in this shabby old school no one else wanted but it did have a large gymnasium where on rainy days they could go for their recess breaks. Life was as good as it could get for these less than perfect children and Marsha Palmetary, their teacher, saw to it that each one was treated with respect and honor according to their disability. It was a happy time for them.

A field trip for picking pecans Marsha carefully planned with milk cartons for buckets, an outdoor lunch, and anything else needed for this excursion.

Mrs. Flood, Mrs. Flood Look! Look! Is this a pecan? One of the children ran up and held a rock up for me to see?

"Hmmm. Well now let me see. Let’s search over here and see what we can find. Okay, look here’s a nice big one." The child took his treasure and ran for the bucket and we were upon what seemed to him to be a great quest. Each nut was a treasure and his sparkling eyes told how well pleased he was with himself and his stash of found nuts. Marsha’s field trip was a great success and we were moving forward with her.

Life was good. This small class became a beacon for anyone who wished to observe and along with many others was the beginnings of what would become Special Education all over the nation. Times were changing and we were like a small brick in a wall of compassion and understanding for children who were loved by their parents, daily. These began to find a way to become productive citizens often time setting an example for those who are more physically able than they are.

Many times I’ve seen a mother pushing a wheelchair with her child in it. She will have her head up while looking straight ahead as if she sees something in the distance of a goal she walks toward. There is no grief and hang down expression with her. It is my hope that this was the appearance I had as Rhonda and I sailed along on waters of lapping calm or rough, dark turmoil.

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