For the most part, I love my Tuesdays. Typically I spend the morning hours working on a yacht. I don’t mean swabbing decks or polishing banisters…other folks take care of that. To clarify, I work part-time for a variety of clients doing primarily office management type work, mostly for high-net worth individuals. In addition, I also do bookkeeping for a few non-profit organizations as well. On Tuesday mornings, my hours are spent working for a client who lives on his 60 ft. yacht. I open the mail (he opens NOTHING in between my visits), pay bills, handle light bookkeeping and occasionally bird-dog other task management projects that he asks me to look after.
On beautiful mornings, there is no better place to work than in the luxurious surroundings of a custom designed yacht, docked in a charming marina where tourists from all over the world wander leisurely along the piers. Aside from the fact that I have an issue with motion sickness, there isn’t much for me to complain about there. I tough it out with the never-ending motion of the boat and occasional dizziness that follows because I love the setting. In all fairness, I should also say that the client is truly a very nice guy to work with, and expresses his appreciation for my efforts quite often. So, who’d want to walk away from that?
Well, quite honestly…some days, I do. Especially when the weather isn’t so picture perfect, or when the tide is low. On those days, just getting on and off the boat are a challenge. The access off the main pier is no big deal if you’re a cat.
But this morning I didn’t go there, because my client gave me an 11th hour notice that he’s away this week. Was I disappointed? Not really.
So, instead I went to my Tuesday afternoon client, which is a local school district. I do the bookkeeping for their non-profit Foundation, which raises money to bridge the state funding gaps. The office manager there is a highly efficient, detail oriented, one-woman band. She does it all. Well, almost all. I do the bookkeeping, but she does all the rest. I like her a lot and really enjoy going to work in such an efficient and well managed office. She’s a divorced mom raising two boys, one of which is a freshman in high school, and the other is a fifth grader who attends the grade school adjacent to the Foundation office. He stops in after school to say hello to his mom, and then heads on home with his buddies if she’s not yet ready to leave. He’s very personable and the kind of kid who converses easily and comfortably with adults.
I’d never have guessed he has any learning issues, had his mom not shared a poem with me today that he’d written for school. It turns out that his brain has difficulty zeroing in…he can’t interpret what he visually sees, such as groups of letters in order to grasp the words that they form. He also has difficulty with his fine motor skills, like writing and navigating a keyboard. Yet, intellectually he is extremely bright. If he’s tested verbally, he’s a very strong student at grade level. If he’s tested with written exams, the result is very different. His reading and writing abilities put him at a low first grade level. So, throughout his grade school experience, he’s been placed in classes with other learning disabled children, some of which are autistic.
His mom thinks a friend actually did the typing while her son dictated the poem, which is titled ‘My Disability’. What really got to me was the very first line, which reads ‘I am disabled and still happy’. Disabled. That word to me would imply a detectable physical disability of some kind. But in this case, he moves and sounds and interacts just like a normal, happy and well-adjusted fifth grader. His only ‘disability’ is so invisible to the rest of us, that only his educators would be aware of it.
He writes about the wild sound of his brain, and watching success disappear before his eyes. He writes of his desire to be like everyone else. And he writes about his sense of frustration and feeling annoyed. He expresses his wish to be successful in life, and to make his parents proud, knowing that he touches their hearts when he succeeds. His mantra is ‘If I don’t succeed today, I will tomorrow’. And, he hopes his disability will go away. But until then, he is disabled and still happy.
The insight he so poignantly expresses seems beyond his ten years of life on this earth.
It’s made me stop and think about the journey we all must take in life. We all have challenges to face, and no one navigates the turbulent waters blessed by skill alone. Life has its ups and downs, just like an ocean. But this young man has already figured out that the best way to ride it out is with a happy heart. His glass is half full, in spite of ‘the wild sound’ of his brain. Half FULL.
He’s not even my son, but I already know how very special he is. As he approaches his teen years and adulthood beyond, I hope he can hold on to that happy heart with a tight determination, so he can teach educators a thing or two about being ‘disabled’.