Sister Mary Jane Wallace, OSB and her principal were on their way to visit a family who was requesting to place their 5-year-old son in Sister Mary Jane’s kindergarten class.
Although such home visits were not uncommon, this one was different. In fact, the two educators were quite nervous.
They were being asked to admit a child with no arms.
They knocked at the door. It opened slowly, and then a head appeared. Johnnie had opened the door with his chin. He showed them to their chairs, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones joined them. They explained their desire.
“They said that Johnnie had been taught how to overcome his handicap in a special school,” Sister Mary Jane says today.
“They thought he was ready for a regular school. He wasn’t mentally or behaviorally handicapped. They said, ‘Johnnie, show Sister how you can color.’
“He pulled a bucket of crayons toward him with his toes, selected the crayons he wanted to use and colored a picture just as beautifully as you or I could.
“I was amazed. But I said, ‘I’m not trained to help such a child. How will the other children react to him? I have 50 children in my classroom. We hold hands during circle time, and whenever we walk somewhere. How will he hold hands?’
Johnnie’s parents countered each of my arguments. They asked me to give it a try. I said, ‘I’m scared to death, but I’ll try.'”
Sister Mary Jane welcomed Johnnie the next day.
“I told the children, ‘God didn’t give Johnnie hands, but he is our new friend.’ Do you know they fought over who would stand next to him and play with him? They held his hook when they were to hold hands. They loved him and he loved them. He went on to play football in high school.”
Sister Mary Jane feels grateful today for having the grace to say Yes … for giving Johnnie a chance.
“It was my own insecurity that made me want to say, ‘No,'” she says. “I thought I had to have all the answers. Now I know to rely on the heart. My heart said ‘Yes,’ thank God. Johnnie was a wonderful child who had a wonderful experience throughout school. I’m so grateful to have been a part of that.”
If you think you may be called to say “Yes,” please e-mail us. Let’s talk! 🙂