By Barb Arland-Fye
When our son Colin’s day program for adults with special needs closed again because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my husband Steve sent an email to me at work that read “Railcam palooza!” The cryptic phrase meant that our son would be spending his days at our house and at least some of the time watching live video of freight and passenger trains courtesy of the popular railroad webcams.
It may not be a productive use of Colin’s time, but it is a reality during a pandemic that requires a “Go with the flow and ride with the tide” mantra we taught our son with autism. He loves watching railcams from across the country, switching back and forth between them while reading his atlases and an assortment of history books and Bibles.
I continue to pray daily for Colin to be engaged in meaningful, satisfying employment in the community at large and we are anxiously awaiting approval for him to start a janitorial job on weekday evenings. However, I have come to realize through the years that productivity is not the penultimate criteria by which we should measure a fulfilling life for Colin or anyone else. Our church teaches that every human being’s life is precious because he or she is made in the image of God.
Those of us who are able to work to support our families should do so, for the wellbeing of our families and the greater community in which we live. We are also called to help those who may not have the ability to contribute to society through paid labor. So, instead of fretting about when Colin might be engaged in meaningful, satisfying paid employment, I am focusing on the joy he brings to our family through his appreciation of the simple joys in life and his unconditional love for others.
Steve drives to Colin’s apartment every weekday morning to pick him up and take him to our house, a routine that has become a source of joy for both of them. Steve tells me that he asks Colin daily, “Which way do you want to go? Up the hill?” Colin always chooses the hill, we think, simply because he likes the scenery with its many trees and a sneak peek of the Mississippi River. Riding in cars has always been a source of contentment for Colin. He lives for road trips!
He rides with his dad on errands and keeps Steve informed about what is happening on the railcam sites. This “new” routine required Steve, who is retired, to make sacrifices in his busy routine. Colin could stay home, alone in his apartment, but we fear that the isolation would have a devastating effect on him. He receives services from an agency that provides care for Colin in the late afternoon and evening, which is a big help, but occasional staffing shortages result in Colin spending even more quality time at the Fye house.
The other day, I was working from home when a staffer named Brenda came to pick up Colin. She shares his interest in history, the presidents, traveling and other activities. That afternoon they planned to drive up to a scenic overlook/rest stop across the river. Colin briefly flapped his hands with delight.
We don’t know when Colin will return to his day program or what the future holds but appreciate the gift that God has presented, an opportunity for all of us to discover the joys in daily life — even in a pandemic.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)