I never thought a washing machine would be on my 3-year-old son’s Christmas gift list. Christmas came three weeks after my son was diagnosed with autism and global developmental disability—what used to be labeled as “mental retardation.”
While he wasn’t yet talking, he made his wishes very clear. Every time—I kid you not—we went to a place that sold washers and dryers, his inner radar immediately directed him to the display models.
He (and we) would check to see if they were “working” or “on display.” He checked them out top to bottom, inside and out, as if he was the manager signing off on selling the items.
We moved from washers and dryers to vacuums, then fans, wheels, and pouring water. Most who understand the autism spectrum know that machines that spin and turn visually stimulate parts of the brain and are irresistible to our loved ones with autism and sensory challenges.
What’s a Parent to Do?
My son’s needs and ways of being were so different that I had no frame of reference for what to buy him that year . . . and in all the years following. So what does a mother do when her son has such varied and unusual interests?
First, I tried to “make” him like what typical kids like: Nerf guns, Legos, toy trains, and simple games. I hoped beyond hope that these would pique his interest. Instead, they collected dust and were finally passed along to friends.
Next, I tried the toy versions of machines that piqued his interest: washing machines and dryers, vacuums, lawn mowers (that never cut the lawn but blew out big bubbles), and all the plastic playful, pretend varieties. He could tell the difference. He intuitively knew what was real and what was just a toy.
As the years have passed, my washer/dryer-loving son has taught me what real gifts are all about. He’s taught me what kind of gifts all humanity longs to be given. And these gifts are already paid in full! We don’t have to fight traffic, go into debt, or fuss over wrapping or returns.
The Gift of Acceptance
We all long to be accepted as we are. We have dignity and value because we are created in God’s image and have an eternal soul. Acceptance does not mean agreement; we don’t have to agree with another’s choices, lifestyle, behaviors, or preferences to extend dignity to others.
We may not agree with other people’s choices, but we can offer the gift of accepting their humanity—people with gifts and talents and who need a Savior—just like I do. Acceptance may be the most treasured gift we could ever offer.
The Gift of Grace
We can generously give grace when we realize how much God extends this gift to us, daily. We are sinners, saved by God’s priceless gift of grace.
We can’t earn it or buy it; we just humbly accept God’s grace. It’s a priceless treasure that we have the privilege to give away!
The Gift of Time
In our distracted, disrupted world, time spent with another person is truly a gift. Giving time is presence; it’s saying “you matter,” “you are valuable,” without having to say a word.
Unlike money or most possessions, time is a rare quantity you cannot get back. As a result, giving your time to another person is a priceless present.
The Gift of Love
No strings attached, no expectations in return . . . simply loving the most unlovely parts of another is an invaluable gift.
This is the lavish love we celebrate at Christmas—the LOVE of God who sent His only Son and allowed Him to die a horrid death on our behalf, so that we could be reconciled to God. To love like Christ is sacrificial and life-giving.
The Gift of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a gift that keeps on giving. Letting go of unrealistic expectations frees us to embrace what is. We become more alive in the present.
Letting go of past hurts allows God to do His best work because we are humbled, open, and ready to participate in His plan, His way.
Let Me Hear from You
In the days ahead, let’s talk about how you can give these gifts to your loved ones this year.
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