A Cashier Showed Us Extra Kindness, but Then She Thanked US!

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The warmth and graciousness experienced by my family at a Target checkout counter this past weekend still has me smiling. A cashier showed us what may seem to some as a simple kindness, but to us it was significant. Kindness is no longer something that I take for granted in today’s society.

My two sons had finally decided to spend some of their Christmas money, so we headed to Target and each of them picked out a video game. A Manager came over to assist our cashier as we checked out, and my youngest decided he wanted to talk to them. He is 9 years old, *Autistic (*not a bad word, see below), and very outgoing. He happily chatted away with the two ladies, excited about his new video game.

“You see that? That’s MY Super Mario Bros. 2 video game. I am buying it with MY own money! You wanna know how to play it? First you get some coins. And then you get some other coins. Basically it’s coins, coins, and more coins! And did I forget to mention COINS?” He really got on a roll and was having some fun joking with them.

The Manager grinned, obviously picking up on his joking. She responded, playing along, “Soooo, maybe the best thing about the game is the COINS, then?”

After we checked out she looked at me and said with a sincere smile, “Thank you for letting him talk to me! He’s a cutie!”

And just like that the scene went from heartwarming to tear-inducing, and I turned into a weepy Mom mess.

SHE said thank you. She treated my son with kindness that many would not, and then SHE thanked US for the privilege. She saw my son for the energetic, engaging, and extraordinary young man that he is.  Continue reading

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People I Want to be More Like in 2016

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Instead of making resolutions this year I have decided to try and emulate some people that I admire. This is a reflection on some of their positive qualities that I think make the world a better place, and I know I would be a better person if I was more like these unique individuals.

I want to feel free to be unapologetically, enthusiastically myself just like my youngest son does.

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They say, “Be yourself, ” and “Dance like no one is watching.” That is what is embodied in this picture. My 4th-grade son is awesome. He is also Autistic. (No, that is not an offensive term. Please read this information if you are unfamiliar with Identity-First language.)

This picture was taken during his older brother’s 5th-grade music performance. Younger brother had seen the performance, complete with choreography, earlier in the day during  a school assembly. By the time the PTA meeting rolled around that night he had somehow memorized most of the songs AND the corresponding movements. After seeing it only ONCE. The unique way his brain absorbs information astounds me! So he sat there in the audience and participated in the performance, singing and dancing right along with the 5th graders. It was AWESOME. He didn’t care what the people sitting around him thought. He didn’t care that he wasn’t supposed to. He just did, and loved every moment of it. And he ROCKED it. I need more of that in my life. I briefly thought about the possibility of asking him to stop in case he was disturbing those around him. I decided against it since he was doing the same as the children on stage, AND I felt it was important that he feel free to express himself. I didn’t want to squelch his indomitable, exuberant, creative spirit that bubbles out of him. It brings me, and others, great joy.

I want to have a heart full of compassion and kindness like my oldest son.

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Can Our Children Heal This Broken World?

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There have been a lot of frightening things happening in the world the past few weeks. Recent events like those in Beirut, Paris, Mali, and the ongoing situation in Syria all weigh heavy on my heart. They cause me to worry about what the future will bring for my children. It also makes me wonder what, if anything, I should tell them about the harsh stories in the news.

One recent afternoon I was out running errands with my oldest son, and checked my phone after pulling into a parking space. I saw a news alert that the number of dead from a horrifying attack had just been raised. Without thinking about it, an “OH NO!” escaped my lips. Then I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed with worry about the state of our broken world. The world my children will inherit.

From the backseat I heard a small, concerned voice. “What is it, Mommy?”

I had a choice to make. Part of me wanted him to stay innocent and pure. To keep believing in the goodness of his fellow human beings. The other part of me wanted him to know that there is evil out there and he must be on guard against it. Should I keep protecting him from the harsh realities of this world we live in, or is he old enough to understand? Continue reading

Firsthand Look at Syrian Migrant Camp in Slavonski Brod: Stories and pictures shared by humanitarian workers

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They arrived hungry and cold asking ‘where am I’ and wondering how long they would be in this camp… They were the face of humanity, longing to be treated as humans. Their faces were streaked with tears, whether from the cold or something far greater, I do not know. All I know is our tears came from overwhelming love, breathtaking grief and bottomless compassion.”

Those words were written by a friend who is currently serving in the Slavonski Brod camp at the Serbian/Croatian border. She and a team from First Baptist, Richmond are doing what they can to meet the needs of the scores of people (approximately 6,000 per day) who arrive there in a desperate search for refuge, help and hope. Some of the team members have been posting updates and they have given me permission to share them with you. It depicts real people in the midst of great hardship. Please take a moment to look. What is happening there is important. These people are all of us. I urge you to not turn away. ~Jennifer

Posted by Ann Whitfield Carter at Washington Dulles International Airport, Sunday, November 1, 10;30pm  •

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A week ago I had no idea I would be on a plane headed to Istanbul tonight. But opportunity knocks and I can’t say no. I will be spending a week on the Serbia/Croatia border working in a Syrian refugee camp. 5,000 people steam through there a day looking for some food, some rest, and medical attention before they continue their journey. Grateful for a church that cares about the world and sends people to help meet the most basic human needs: safety, food, rest.

 

Posted by Ann, November 3 at 1:37am • Osijek, Croatia •
No sleep yet. My mind is racing. Elvis, a Bosnian born seminary student, along with his cohorts Evan and Miki picked us up from the airport. Because I tend toward car sickness, I rode shotgun and heard the most amazing story on our three hour drive (the one benefit to motion sickness!) This summer, Elvis and his friends had been gathering supplies through their local church for some community service project or other. The Syrian refugee crisis happened before they put their supplies to use. So Elvis and his friends went down to the Serbian border with their supplies and began handing out supplies. Local police who were trying to manage the flow of humanity began to work along side these young men to serve the refugees. Pretty soon, local government, UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Catholic Church were pooling their resources together, and a camp was formed. (They are opening a second camp this week) That was 90 days ago. Today’s trip to Budapest to pick us up was their first time away from the camps since then.

THAT, my friends, IS WHAT THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO DO. To be the hands and feet of Christ, seeing needs, being the first to generously share their resources, and welcome partners into the process of meeting those needs.

I am amazed by these young men – they are courageous leaders. Our world is a better place because Elvis and Miki and Evan are in it.

 

Posted by Ann, Tuesday, November 3 in Osijek •

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Elvis calls this is the Croatian Ferrari. One time all the farmers drove to Zagreb to protest a government policy – on their tractors. It took them 2 days.

 

Posted by Ann, November 3 at 6:57pm • Oriovac, Croatia •

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Tomorrow morning, a new camp is opening in Slavonsky Brod. Today, a train filled with refugees came for a trial run before the real thing tomorrow. Tonight, Steve Blanchard, Jeff Dortch (Jeannie), Lisa Tuck and I will work from 10-7 helping the camp put the final preparations in place. They will begin to receive refugees first thing in the morning. This camp will be better equipped for the winter months. The refugees don’t have to walk to get here, they can take a train. They can wait to register in the warmth of a train car rather than outside in the cold. There are a few winterized tents that will not only protect from the elements, but will keep them warmer than the summer tents at the other camp. This is a major endeavor, yet the organization is impressive. Volunteers from Caritas, Jesuite Refugee Services, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Samaritan’s Purse, local police, and the Croatia Baptist Aid are working together to warmly welcome the 5,000 plus refugees who stream through here each day.

Elvis story of the day: He said something at dinner about “failing forward.” I asked him what that meant and he said that when something needs to be done and you don’t know how to do it, you have to start somewhere and just keep adapting and adjusting until it works. When you try to do something this big, you can’t be afraid to fail – because you are going to fail. You just have to keep failing until you succeed. Truth.

So now I am going to sleep before I pull an all nighter!

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Posted by Ann, Wednesday, November 4, 4:40am, • Lovas, Croatia•

A 4am train filled with 1200 precious humans. Next stop Zagreb.

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Comment by Steve: “Such an eerie representation of human suffering as refugees debark from trains at Croatian camp”  Continue reading

Autism and the Theater: THANK YOU Kelvin Moon Loh!

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Kelvin Moon Loh is a performer who is currently in ‘The King and I’ at Lincoln Center. The day prior to this post there was an incident with an Autistic* person during one of his shows. His response was amazing, and he actually began a discussion about it on his personal Facebook page. Since some of you don’t have Facebook, and also because THIS IS IMPORTANT, I copied his responses and posted some screenshots here. Shared with his permission.

(*Yes, I said Autistic, not with Autism. I am not being disrespectful, I am simply reflecting the way that an increasing majority of Autistic individuals wish to be identified. If you are not familiar with the identity-first movement I encourage you to learn more.)

Here is what Kelvin’s Facebook post said (screenshot is at the top of the post):

“I am angry and sad.

Just got off stage from today’s matinee and yes, something happened. Someone brought their autistic child to the theater.

That being said- this post won’t go the way you think it will.

You think I will admonish that mother for bringing a child who yelped during a quiet moment in the show. You think I will herald an audience that yelled at this mother for bringing their child to the theater. You think that I will have sympathy for my own company whose performances were disturbed from a foreign sound coming from in front of them.

No.

Instead, I ask you- when did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?  Continue reading