Editor’s note: Jeff Davidson will be serving as our guest contributor to the blog in December, January and February. Jeff is the Founder and President/CEO of Rising Above Ministries, a national special needs ministry serving special needs families, and is a contributing author to Not Alone, Comfort in the Midst of Chaos, and The Mighty. Jeff, his wife Becky and his son (Jon Alex) live in Cookeville, Tennessee. When he is not writing and speaking, Jeff is passionate about University of Tennessee football. I look forward to having another male voice on the blog this winter. Here’s Jeff’s first contribution…
For many typical families, it truly is “the most wonderful time of the year,” as the song says.
But for many families impacted by disability, chronic illness, and special needs, it’s more like “the most dreadful time of the year.”
The holidays are here.
This is the time of the year that brings so much added stress, despair, and frustration to special needs families. Every day seems to bring yet another reminder of how different our lives are, and how every aspect of our lives is impacted by disability.
In the early years of our own family’s journey as special needs parents, I would find myself drafting a long litany of worries.
“What if he has a meltdown in the middle of dinner?”
“What if his vocal stimming is so loud it disrupts all the conversation around him”
“What if we have to leave the house early in order to calm him down?”
“What if I have to explain the gluten free, dairy free diet to one more nosy aunt?”
“What if that other extended family member won’t quit staring?”
“What if he makes a mess while I attempt to feed him?”
Sometimes I would want to scream, “if you people only knew how hard it as for us to even be here today, you’d be a little more understanding!”
Perhaps the late Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard was right when he said that relatives were people you would want nothing to do with if it weren’t for the fact that you are related.
Eventually, I came to a startling revelation however, and it changed my whole attitude and perspective.
It was not my son’s behavior that caused my worries and anxiety. Rather, it was my fear of how others might be perceiving that behavior that was the source of my stress.
In other words, I was letting my emotions be determined and dictated by the reactions of those around me. The watershed moment for us came when we realized that people would take their cues from us and how we reacted to our circumstances.
We made the decision, the choice, to live our lives unapologetically and joyfully. We have been given this amazing gift to remind us of unconditional love, infinite grace, and the essence of the gospel in our lives.
Now I too am a Southern man. I was born in the South and have lived here all my forty-eight years. In the South, we have our own colloquialisms and ways of expressing things in language.
For example, we have refined the word “fixin’” in ways the English language could have never conceived.
“I’m fixin’ to go eat lunch”
“They were fixin’ to get ready to go the party.”
We say things that only another Southern might understand such as, “That dog will hunt,” or “I didn’t do nothing but piddle around all day.”
So my wife and I found our salvation, our relief, our moment of clarity, in three simple words that only resonate in the South.
Three simple words that hold the key to surviving the holidays as a special needs family. Heck, these three words will get you through any and all situations year-round as a special needs family.
You will no longer fear social situations or crowds. You will no longer fear restaurants, dinner tables, or waiting rooms. You will no longer live in fear of stares, looks, or disparaging comments.
You ready for the three words that will change your life?
“Jimmy crack corn…”
What in the world?
It’s a line from a popular minstrel from the 1840s which goes, “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care.” We often sang the song from which it is derived, “Blue Tail Fly” in elementary school music and chorus.
And there you have it. My wife and I will simply say under our breath, “JCC.”
As in, “Jimmy crack corn, I don’t care.”
Because I don’t care any more. This is our family. This is what we look like and how our son acts. I don’t have a problem with his autism or his cerebral palsy. If you do, well that’s your problem.
We won’t let the actions or reactions of those around us dictate our joy and our happiness as a family. We are going to live our lives fully, with as much grace as possible. We have much to offer to this world and we are not going to let you stop us from God’s purpose and plan for our lives.
Jeff Davidson is an author and pastor who enjoys speaking at churches, conferences, events and to groups, ministering to special needs families and individuals. Jeff and his wife Becky started Rising Above Ministries when they realized the incredible gift and blessing their own son with special needs (Jon Alex) was to them. Jeff’s book, No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches, is available through Crosslink Publishing, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.