A few weeks ago a friend accompanied me to drop Oliver off at a day camp for children with special needs. As we waited to check him in, we were surrounded by kids ready to have an adventure. Some were in wheelchairs, others were walking independently vocalizing their excitement. Parents were jostling gait trainers, orthotics, feeding pumps, backpacks full of snacks. Kids were tugging at their caregivers arms, shrieking, snoozing, bolting for the playground doors.
After we passed Oliver off to his buddy and signed the check-in sheet, we walked outside. My friend sighed and said how sad it was. He was depressed.
I was taken aback. We had just been in such a joyful environment. The building was beautifully decorated with a wall of glass overlooking a huge playground designed specifically for kids of all abilities. The staff was warm, greeting everyone with a smile. Parents were giddy with excitement to have a safe and capable space for their children to enjoy a quintessential summer camp day.
My perspective of what just occurred was vastly different from his.
He saw brokenness.
I saw beauty.
He felt pity.
I felt thankful.
He heard noise.
I heard music.
His response was completely normal. His heart ached for the families, wishing their children could be healed. He has a general understanding of the additional stressors they face - physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, relationally, spiritually. He felt compassion.
He kept saying "I pity them". My visceral reaction to that word is anger. Pity can have a haughty tone and come across as condensing. But he in no way thought that. He was sorrowful for the suffering of these beautiful families.
It was a lesson in grace.
For both of us.