Posted on : Thursday April 12, 2018

Jimmy Stolle, son of Tom Stolle, chief finance officer and operating officer for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

By Tom Stolle

I was at the Walmart the other day. It’s one of Jimmy’s favorite places to go. He loves to push the cart around the store as we gather up a few items we need, and more items than I would like to purchase of things he may want (for example, our sixth bag of tortilla chips, as we already have five bags at home).

This day was particularly difficult. Jimmy had more behaviors at home for another unknown reason. I was tired. Just another difficult day in the autism life. Day after day, month after month, year after year, little seems to change. I routinely wonder if Jimmy will ever get past his behaviors. I worry what will happen when my wife and I are no longer residents of earth, but instead reside in heaven. How will Jimmy survive? Who will love him and care for him like we do?

But something special happened to me at the store that day. I was given a gift from a stranger. It was unexpected. It was genuine.

It was a smile.

This woman saw Jimmy and I together. She knew immediately that Jimmy has challenges. His noises, hand flapping, clapping, and noise reduction headphones all advertise these challenges.

She wasn’t put off. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t stare. She smiled.

It wasn’t a smile that reflected pity. It was a smile that reflected love. How do I know? I just do. I’ve seen thousands of looks and heard thousands of comments through the years. Parents of these very special children learn to tell the difference.

No words were shared. No words were necessary.

That smile….it changed my day. It was better than a five-hour energy drink. It communicated care and compassion, not pity or judgment. It communicated that my son was not less. It communicated many things that I can’t put into words, but it was good.

The Bible says in Psalm 4:6, “Who will show us better times? Let your face smile on us, Lord.”

Father God, thank you for sending me that smile that day. For a day, it was a game changer!

Just a reminder to share God’s love, the joy that is within you, with others. You may think it’s insignificant. For individuals and families affected by disabilities, it just might be the gift of a lifetime.

Or it might just help get them through another day.