Alex and Carol are a Franciscan couple that I met a few years ago. My friend Jim and I were on the scout for a new Fraternity and went to his house to observe if this was a good fit for us. When we pulled in front of their house we noticed a man standing on the front porch waiting for us. As we got closer we could see that he had mental disabilities, partially blind and somewhat mute. He communicated with hand gestures and grunting. He gave me the biggest bear hug and a smile so big that I will never forget it. He ushered us into the house where we saw another man just like him coming down the stairs and another in the living room. Alex and Carol introduced us to everyone and told us that when Marlboro Psychiatric facility closed, they found themselves adopting those special needs adults that had no friends or family to take them in. They also offer respite care for parents of special need adult that need some time away to recharge. Alex commented, “This is more difficult than “normal” care as these adults love routine, even more than children do. Respite is a major break of routine and the clients need extra special patience and love so they felt “ok”
Jim and I couldn’t believe it; I mean this is not your average family. Intrigued, we asked them how this all came to be. They told us about how they have seven children, six boys and a girl they adopted through the poverty of Calcutta, India, when Alex was on a business trip. One day Carol heard God speak to her heart, inviting her and her husband to take in foster care children. She thought about it and then thought it would be a lot easier just to have another child? So they did, a boy, and he was born missing the aorta valve in his heart. In a few short hours he died. Struck with immeasurable grief, they decided to revisit God’s invitation to take in foster care children. They received over a course of a few years, four children, and submerged themselves into parenting. This eased their loss tremendously, so they thought about expanding to a group home to foster even more children. That was, until, a friend with cerebral palsy pointed out that adults need loving too. As coincidence would have it, soon after that comment, an advertisement came out, for people to become “SKILL DEVELOPMENT SPONSORS” for the department of developmental disabilities of NJ, DDD NJ. Seeing this as a sign from God, they took a one week training course and became the pioneers for home based care for “Special Needs Adults.”
All I could think to myself was, how unbelievable they are and how I have trouble raising my three children and do a lot of complaining about it. I couldn’t imagine seven kids, plus foster kids, plus mentally challenged adults. How do they do it? They tell me that God provides for all of their needs and that taking on these responsibilities transformed their family. They became more compassionate, patient and loving people. They see the face of God in each individual and it’s as if they are caring for Jesus himself. Carol shared with me that, “She sees the good come out of everyday people whenever they are around them and that is a gift to see.”
This family listened to the voice of God whispering in their heart and trusted. They are a family that is living the pages of scripture and I find that they challenge me. They challenge me to stretch myself and do more than I want to or think that I can. Their story also reminds me of Jesus beatitudes; I’ve listed them below and included the Devil’s beatitudes after them, just for fun and deeper thought. A priest friend of mine shared them with me and now I am sharing them with you.
Matthew 5: 1-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Devil’s beatitudes
Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend even an hour once a week with their fellow Christians- they are my best workers.
Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them.
Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church- for they are my missionaries.
Blessed are the trouble makers- for they shall be called my children.
Blessed are the complainers- for their complaints are music to my ears.
Blessed are those who keep a list of the preacher’s mistakes- for they get nothing out of his sermons.
Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church- for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.
Blessed are those who gossip—for they shall cause strife and division that pleases me.
Blessed are those who are easily offended- for they will soon get angry and quit.
Blessed are those who do not give an offering to carry on God’s work- for in stealing from God you steal FOR me.
Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister- for he shall be with me forever.
Blessed are you who when you hear this, think the preacher is talking about someone other than you- for I’ve got you right where I want you.