By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed.
This morning my son and I discussed literature. Specifically, we noted a good author’s ability to challenge and strengthen the mind and character of the reader in ways mere escapist entertainment never can.
Michael wants to protect his mind, because he fears the long-term prognosis of some of his conditions. He does not want to lose the ability to think or to read, as sometimes happens with degenerative disabilities. I promised him he will be well served to continue reading good books. Reading good literature will help protect his mind.
I pray for stronger minds for both of my children. As parents of special-needs children understand too well, my children’s prognosis is on my mind too. This helps keep me steadfast in teaching them, caring for them, and loving them.
I recently spent several days in the Memoria Press office working on the new special-needs curriculum packages. My children were back home in Missouri. I thought of them often; however, I did not want to call so soon and make them miss me. Even as young adults, my children’s special needs often leave them feeling vulnerable.
So I had some quiet time on my hands in the evenings. Unaccustomed to quiet time in the evenings, suddenly I needed a book to read. (I learned that when you find yourself in Kentucky with no book to read, Martin Cothran will reach into the trunk of his car and give you a book or two by Kentucky’s own novelist and essayist Wendell Berry.)
That first evening back in my suite, instead of calling home, I entered Wendell Berry’s stories. The forced slowing of thought, where reading yields to contemplation, led me to welcome those hours. The characters spoke with such a casual wisdom, they reminded me of gentle insights my 100-year-old grandma shared with me without ever intending to be wise.
In “Pray Without Ceasing,” a conversation unfolds in a farm kitchen. The grandmother describes a horrible day long ago, when she had learned of a tragedy. “Oh,” she said, “I felt it go all over me, before I knew it in my mind. I just wanted to crawl away. But I had your mother to think about. You always have somebody to think about, and it’s a blessing.”
As long as our children live, especially our children with special needs, we’ll always have somebody to think about. And it’s a blessing.