by Julie Askew, Director of Special Education & Related Services
During the holidays, we are excited about festivities and always in a rush to fulfill our elaborate plans for family gatherings and gift-giving. There is a buzz of energy, engaging all of our senses – the colors of the bright Christmas lights and “ugly sweaters,” the sounds of the holiday tunes, the touch of warm gloves when there is a crisp nip in the air, the smell of a fresh tree, and the taste of freshly baked treats to share with family and friends.
As we rush to plan the perfect Christmas, we often find ourselves stressed out and wishing for more time to relax. We want to enjoy the best of everything this season has to offer, but often we realize we haven’t paused long enough to embrace what matters most – spending precious moments with loved ones and making lasting memories.
As we approach this busy time of year, let us be reminded that sometimes the most precious gift we can offer is our undivided attention, especially to our children. I was reminded of this recently in a visit to one of our elementary classrooms with children in the Special Education program. Our students work hard to defy the odds, whether it be mobility issues, medical conditions, or learning differently, the struggles are real. However, the students strive to overcome their frustrations with tenacity.
The season can be especially overwhelming for students who have special needs. Even the simplest transition from the classroom to recess can present obstacles to overcome. Teachers work diligently with students to help them conquer their physical and developmental challenges. These learners continue to practice communication skills, socializing with others. As most children bravely tackle the playground, others cautiously practice their steps. It is in that moment that something endearing happens, as I watch classmates coaching and cheering their friends along.
A moment like this could pass on any given day, but it triggers a sentimental tug at the heartstrings to witness such kindness from so many children. I am reminded of the lessons in compassion to be learned from our children who experience significant disabilities. As I pause to take in the moment, I was invited to join in the fun. We laughed and played chase together. We walked the playground holding hands and talked without a care in the world. I took joy in being in the moment.
What a gift it was to be reminded of the value of precious moments. I will cherish this memory with our students, and it had a profound affect on me; but you never fully know the impact your presence has on others. It is my wish and hope for all of you to take time to create these moments with your loved ones. These are not just moments captured, but they can be spread and shared to all around us. Our students remind us that we all have an opportunity to give the most valuable gift we have to offer – our time and attention. So go ahead, put on your ugly sweater, and let’s find the time for joy and peace in living in the moment.