Our Friend, BenWritten by Linda Hill
When my son was about 11, he hit a stage that particularly drove me crazy! He seemed to be caught in a rut of some kind. He was incredibly discontent with life in general. It could be anything that set him off... what day it was, what was happening at school, the fact that life was simply "unfair," and pretty much ANYTHING I asked him to do around the house. I was racking my brain to figure out how to get him out of this rut of discontent. As I sought answers, the thought of service kept coming to my mind. I have always believed that service is the cure for so much of what ails us in life. It is a way to forget ourselves and our own problem by turning our thoughts to others. If anyone needed that it was my son!
The challenge was finging the RIGHT sort of thing for my 11 year old. I wanted him to have a "buy in," which meant I needed to find something that he would find interesting. Considering his current state of discontent, that was a challenge. The one thing I knew he loved was his new mountain bike. He'd saved up his own money and loved his new bike. I logged onto a few local volunteer matching websites until I spotted the perfect thing - riding bikes with mentally challenged adults around a community lake. It wasn't easy strapping his bike on the car and fighting the 30 minutes of traffic in the late afternoon to get there, but after one session, I knew we'd found the perfect solution.
The answer to my prayers came in the form of a young adult with Down Syndrome, named Ben. He was my son's assigned partner for the ride around the lake. I was able to sit and read a book while they took the nearly 3K loop around the lake. When my son returned after a few trips with Ben, we loaded up the bike and headed home. When I asked him how it went, he just grinned from ear to ear and said, "That was awesome! Ben is so funny and I couldn't stop smiling the whole time!" Then he went on to tell me every funny thing Ben said and for the first time in quite a while, I listened with joy to my very happy boy. There wasn't even a question of whether or not we'd do it again. Ben and my son became fast friends. After a few bike rides, Ben wrote down our phone number and would call fairly often. I loved to hear my son answer the phone... his entire personality changed immediately. It is as if Ben touched the very center of my son's heart... his "soft spot." I'd hear him laugh and joke and then he'd end by saying, "Bye, Ben... I love you, too!" I always knew my son had a tender side and Ben had found it.
The best part of this story is that my other children were so curious about Ben that they, too, wanted to come along. Soon enough, Ben had "adopted" us all. In fact, he made nicknames for each one of us. He called us the Brady Bunch because with two boys and three girls, he was able to be Greg Brady and complete the Brady family. He still calls me Carol Brady, and I love it! This whole "service project" that my son entered into nearly 6 years ago has blessed my entire family. Ben is such a light and a joy to us. He's taught my children unconditional love and acceptance. We've attended soe of his plays; we've had his family for dinner; he's cheered us on in a 5K race... he's become family to us. Just before my son and daughter were leaving for college, they packed up their bikes once again (this time all by themselves), and drove to the lake to ride with Ben and enjoy some Sonic drinks while they said their good-byes. We can never see Ben without becoming happier. Everyone needs a "Ben" in their lives!
That is the magic of service... it changes us, it enriches our lives, and helps us find contentment. You can't participate in service and remain unchanged. Thank you, Ben, for finding that tender spot in my son's heart and working your way into ours.
Linda Hill is a native of…well, nowhere really. She grew up as an Air Force brat and currently claims Littleton, CO as her home of 8 years (the longest she’s lived any one place in her life so far!) She is the mother of 5 children, two sons and a daughter who have already “flown the coop” and 2 daughters in high School. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Family Science and put her degree to use as she raised her large family and operated several home-based businesses while serving in many volunteer positions in her church, community and the schools. She has been married to Kent Hill for 25 years and they look forward to at least another 125! Currently she is an instructor to teens for a daily early morning religion class. She is passionate about her family, storytelling, politics and when she gets the time – locking herself in her sewing room with a chick flick and getting her “creative” on!
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