One bright morning I packed my newborn Katy and 19 month-old Kristen into my little white Pinto and nervously made the 18-mile trip across Dallas to the Easter Seals Society. There we would find therapy and friendship. I had signed up for one; the other was a wonderful surprise.
On our tour a month earlier, the staff had told me I’d meet lots of other moms in the lobby. It was a lively, fun place. But when I arrived, the lobby was enormous and empty.
This is not my idea of fun, I thought as I got baby Katy situated next to me.
Then, as if released by floodgates, the lobby crowded with women, kids, overflowing bags and chaos. “Oh, hey! Are you new? What a cute baby!”
And with those words, my new life began.
Within minutes, women of all shapes and sizes were knitting, chasing toddlers, feeding babies, even sorting socks. Hysterical stories, shopping tips, and family updates passed back and forth between them. These women had lived together day in, day out, for months, even years. They were family.
Yet they were so different. They were from every level of society, education, ethnicity, family background, marital status, religion, parenting style — you name it.
But they had one thing in common: they were all special needs moms.
And I was one of their group now: The Ladies of the Lobby.
It was a bond that made us sisters. It said, “I get you.”
That kinship made me feel comfortable enough, over the coming weeks, months, and years, to lay down my burdens, bit by bit, in the same way these women did with me. We all had burdens that we closely guarded and shared with few. We knew all too well the wounds that came from sharing with those who trivialized our suffering, or worse, made our blessings their melodrama. But because we had walked in similar shoes, sharing within our group felt safe.
Too soon, our children graduated from this Shangri-La. Most of our kids continued their therapies and education in the public school system within our suburban cities. We lost track of each other. That wonderful group was never replaced.
Many wounds healed those short years at Easter Seals. What I learned was this:
When you allow someone to see your pain,
you are giving them the opportunity
to reveal their pain.
When we allow people to reveal their troubles, we can be there for them.
II Corinthians 1:3,4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
I’ve seen this lived out in the group I’m part of now. Though it’s not a group for special needs parents, it’s a small group from our church that Rick and I have grown to love. In some ways, we’re still forging bonds of trust. In other respects, the trust is firmly in place.
This kind of close, authentic relationship is worth seeking out. God never intended us to live solitary lives. Instead, He intended for us to be in fellowship with each other, to bear each others’ burdens (Galatians 6:2), to laugh and cry together, to pick each other up when we fall (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Many churches have groups like this, with names such as “community group”, “small group”, “home group”, or “life group”.
I encourage you to find a group that you can be a part of, a group that will “get you”. You might have to try several before settling on one that feels just right. And even if you are told, “we’re full”, keep trying until you find one you think will work. It’s worth it.
All these years later, I’m so glad for the Ladies of the Lobby. They taught me the value of belonging to a group and the benefit of sharing burdens. I never want to live without a close-knit community again.