It was in a small auditorium filled with second year college students that I met the little boy named Charlie who would change my life.
My college sociology class was visiting a state hospital that was the home of many profoundly disabled individuals. We met with therapists and counselors who worked with special needs residents, each challenged with various physical and cognitive disabilities.
Halfway through the presentation we learned about a condition called microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which the circumference of the head is smaller than average for the infant or child. It can impact the development of speech and muscle functions. There is no treatment for microcephaly.
After a brief review of the nature of this neurological disorder, our group was introduced to Charlie.
We were informed that the only language Charlie knew was some basic American Sign Language (ASL). Charlie was about 8 years of age and able to walk independently.
From my seat in the front row of the auditorium, I couldn’t help but notice Charlie’s lack of expression, void of eye contact and social engagement. His motions and gait were deliberate and somewhat robotic as he glanced often to the therapist standing by his side. We were told that Charlie wanted to come around to say hello to some in our group using his language saying, “Hi, my name is Charlie” in sign.
As Charlie made his way down the stairs to the front row, I noticed the slow hand shapes and motions he was making, but again with no facial expression of engagement. As he approached my section, he stopped in front of me signing, “Hi, my name is Charlie.” I smiled and gave a little wave and then something astonishing happened.
Unbeknownst to me, sitting directly behind me was a fellow student who happened to know sign language.
I don’t know what my classmate said to Charlie, but whatever it was delighted Charlie to the core. It was as if a lifeless Christmas tree was suddenly being illuminated for the very first time.
Charlie transformed before my eyes.
No more the robotic movements and unresponsive expressions. Now, Charlie was a little boy full of smiles and playfulness; shining with a glow and warmth of stunning beauty.
I was witnessing a moment of joy.
A magical, awe-inspiring, emotional, and otherworldly moment of transformation.
For Charlie, someone he had never met before, a perfect stranger, somehow knew his language…and the result was unmistakable joy.
With tears in my eyes, I watched this transformation take place. I witnessed the power of learning another person’s language and how you could transform a person’s sense of self and their perspective of their value. And ultimately, we can be a part of God’s plan to birth true joy in another’s heart.
There are certain moments in our lives that become life-shifting encounters that God uses to guide our steps as we chose to live the adventure of following His will for our lives.
That day in the auditorium with Charlie was one of those moments ….. and it changed my life forever.
A few years after meeting Charlie, I found myself in a graduate program learning sign language and becoming a speech and language pathologist. And I can say that throughout my 35 year career, I have been blessed to experience countless moments of joy in the faces of my students and patients as I’ve learned their heart languages.
One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela…
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Isn’t that exactly what God does for us?
God knows our language. God speaks all languages, including yours and mine. He speaks on the threshold of schools, in the hallways of office buildings, in the homes of the lonely, in the views of dramatic sunsets, in the faces of children, on the streets of the abandoned, in His Holy Scriptures, and through the peace of answered prayers. God pursues us and speaks to us in our own heart languages. Why? Because He loves us and He wants us to have our own moment of joy with Him.
How is God speaking to you today?
We are told in Scripture that we hold riches in the unadorned pots of our everyday lives. Some warped, some cracked, but all are bearers of a sacred treasure which God places within us to light up the darkness and to illuminate His love.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
It started when God said, “Let there be light.”
Our lives have been filled up with light as we first saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
God loves you so much that He will use anything and anyone to proclaim this love to you in the language you best understand.
God used a little boy named Charlie to speak powerfully to me through a moment of joy.
Let Him speak to you today in your heart language and you can experience not only a moment of joy, but a lifetime of moments!
Read Rhonni’s other Fruitful stories, CLICK HERE
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