We recently hosted a large slumber party to celebrate Eldest’s birthday. We were new to the community, so many of the girls were not familiar with the “special” challenges we face as a family. Most of the evening went fine.
However… bullying showed up!
Our younger daughter Rachel is on the severe end of the autism spectrum, so large numbers of people present a challenge. Noise, change in routine, and too many people ramp up Rachel’s anxiety. Her self-stim behaviors increase exponentially. She enjoys having people around, but might strip to her undershirt and bottoms.
Rachel loves to laugh, but sometimes only an inch from someone’s face. She occasionally makes a mess when she potties, although she cleans it up. She can’t speak clearly yet, and she doesn’t understand social cues.
Add all of those up, and big problems result! The kind that often result in tears, either myself or Eldest.
This slumber party was no exception. I tried to give a brief explanation of autism, but they were too caught up in socializing to pay attention. In retrospect, I should have asked the parents to prepare children ahead of time. The problem was the people unaware of Rachel and her issues didn’t RSVP, but just showed up…
As a result several girls were mean to Rachel; she was bullied by guests in our home.
One mocked her and imitated her noises and movements, even pulling up her shorts to look more like Rachel. Another spoke about how her mom thinks “those kinds” of people are freaks (and her mother works in special education). Ugh. My stomach clenches as I write this.
How can people be so cruel?
Eldest ended up in tears after the “making fun of Rachel” incident. Yet, in the midst of that pain, three of the other girls came to Rachel’s defense. How wonderful is that? Furthermore, my sister called the girls into a circle to talk about autism in slumber-party, pow-wow fashion. It made a big difference to the girls; it was something I could not have done emotionally.
After the party, however, I was left with a big issue. Eldest was still hurting. Tears brimming in her eyes, she clenched her fists. “Why does Rachel have to be autistic anyway?”
My heart shattered. I ask myself that question so often. “I don’t know,” I told her. “What I do know is that God made her that way. Rachel will not have to answer to God for being autistic, but someday people will have to answer to Him for how they treated people with special needs.”
“But I’m so mad,” she said.
I nodded. “Yes, but we must trust God to take care of the situation. You can choose whether or not to be close to that girl who bullied Rachel, but we still need to forgive her. Then we trust God to take care of her heart.”
While Eldest thought it over, I prayed for wisdom and the passage in Matthew 5:43-47 came to mind. (Interesting that my Bible study covered it just this week…)
“ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
I said to Eldest, “The Bible tells us that we should forgive, but Jesus also says that being nice to people who are nice to you is easy. The real challenge is being kind and forgiving to people who aren’t nice and don’t deserve it. That’s when we really show people about His love. After all, Jesus forgives our mistakes. We need to forgive others and trust God to take care of the rest.”
As we worked through our pain as a family, I wondered what school would bring Monday. The result surprised me.
The girl who mocked Rachel asked if eldest was still her friend. She also wanted to know if she would ever be invited over to our house again. It was such a lesson in letting God take care of other people. That girl’s heart was softened in a way that could not have happened by human means. Based on what Eldest had said throughout the year regarding this girl, I had already decided not to call her mother, but to let God handle it.He handled it in a bigger way than I could imagine. I have watched that young girl grow more compassionate each time I see her. What a miracle, yes?
We never know how our lives, even the negative parts, will affect others. Perhaps that young woman will grow up and become a therapist because something she didn’t understand has now been made clear in a positive manner. After all, people often fear what they don’t understand. Bullying is one form of acting out based on fears.
Sadly, not all situations end this way. I wish they did, but I do know that God does not return our prayers or suffering with emptiness. If you are being bullied or if you just need someone to talk to we have mentors available. Just use this form to send in a request and your mentor will contact you, usually in a few days.