We arrived at the park alongside a large van of adults with special needs. They gathered around the picnic table with their packed lunches, and they shared a picnic with one another. They played on the playground, they laughed with one another, and they enjoyed the sunshine, right alongside us.
My boys were very interested. Who were these children, as tall as Mommy and Daddy, who played with hearts and minds like small children? They watched, implicitly noticing a difference.
One girl, Michelle, took an extraordinary interest in them. She asked for High Fives; she ran with them and played their games. It was impossible to know how old she was, since she was as tall as I am, but her motor skills and emotional capacity seemed comparable to three-year-old Tyler.
From a nearby bench, I watched. I said nothing.
I wasn't sure what lesson I wanted them to learn. Should I teach them to be friendly, warm, and compassionate to others who have different needs? Or should I teach them that this is the exception, that unknown adults are not always safe, and that distance is generally safer, even if her fun loving spirit was absolutely safe for them?
I said nothing.
And then their game of Follow the Leader took them straight up the climbing wall. Tucker first, Tyler right behind. Michelle followed after them, her wiry frame working hard to manage the climb.
My children stood at the top: Encouraging her.
They showed her where to step, they coached her where to grasp, and they reminded her to be careful. And when she made it to the top, they cheered for her. High Fives all around.
Some lessons don't need me at all. Some lessons teach themselves.