Impertinences of Fate

Teresa Kellerman April 11, 2001 (updated February 20, 2010)

One thought leads to another.

With this morning's announcement of the release from China of the 24 captured crew members of a Navy spy plane, a thought comes to my mind of the importance of the ability to communicate effectively in order to achieve success, to prevent injustice, to save lives.

I thought to myself, "How careful leaders and ambassadors must be in what they say and how they say it, how they must take into consideration how it will be interpreted and perceived by others, knowing that the consequences could make the difference between war and peace, between life and death."

And when I think of the importance of effective communication skills and social interaction, I think of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and how most of those affected have significant deficits in this very area.

Children with FASDs have no problem with verbal expression. As most of their mothers will tell you, once they learned to talk, they never shut up. Social butterflies, some call them. Sociable and talkative, they seem to have no problem finding someone to listen to them chatter, and sometimes they can be quite engaging and interesting. But often their verbosity is irrelevant and at times might be inappropriate. In spite of their apparently good expressive language skills, they lack the ability to effectively communicate and to interact socially in a way that would help them thrive.  In many situations, this is what gets them into serious trouble. Saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time reflects their poor judgment and lack of impulse control. Such a terrible fate to befall a child.

When I think of people who have overcome problems with communication, I think of Helen Keller. She could neither see nor hear, yet she became a world-renowned speaker and writer. She transformed from a tantruming wild child to an eloquent and graceful role model for all of us.

"The one resolution, which was in my mind long before it took the form of a resolution, is the key-note of my life. It is this, always to regard as mere impertinences of fate the handicaps which were placed upon my life almost at the beginning. I resolved that they should not crush or dwarf my soul, but rather be made to blossom, like Aaron's rod, with flowers." -- Helen Keller

This led me to look up "Aaron's Rod" where I found this lovely art depicted on the Basilica of Notre Dame, and two references, one from the bible and one from the dictionary:

Numbers 17:8: "And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds."

Architecture term: A rod-shaped molding decorated with a design of leaves, scrolls, or a twined serpent.

It does not matter how we view our staff - as biblical, structural, mythical - it is a strong symbol for parents and care providers of children with FASDs. We are shepherds. We can use our staff to discipline and punish, or to lead and support. Visualize your staff. Does it have blossoms with nourishing fruit? Is it strong enough to support both you and your child?  What was Helen Keller's staff?  A positive attitude.  But she didn't develop that attitude and acquire her strength and grow in grace on her own.

What was the key to Helen's breakthrough from Wild Child to Wonderful Woman? A mentor. Anne Sullivan was someone who was insightful and dedicated and committed and consistent. Someone who had reasonable expectations and who strove only to bring young Helen to reach her potential, to release the whole spirit inside. Our children have whole spirits that need to be nurtured and nudged, with patience and perseverance. Just as Annie worked with Helen incessantly until she finally got the concept of language, we must work with our children and also with the world - to "get it" when it comes to FASD. And just as Annie worked intensely and closely with Helen, each child with a Fetal Alcohol disorder needs a mentor to help them achieve success in reaching their potential.

Not all of our children can achieve the greatness of Helen Keller, but they all have talents and gifts that can be discovered and brought to blossom. Not many of our children will have someone like Anne Sullivan in their lives to help unlock the mysteries of communication. For years Helen was trapped in her darkness and silence. She was released from her prison and she gifted us with her words and wisdom.

The 24 crew members will be released from their detainment, and will no doubt be debriefed, supervised, accompanied, and supported, much like our kids with FASDs must be on a daily basis. This intense treatment is necessary to ensure their safety and ours.

I just this moment experienced a computer mishap - I got one of those "fatal error" messages on my screen with the warning that the program would be closed. My entire article up to this point would be lost, as I could not copy or save my text. At first I wanted to rant and rave and cry and complain. Then I remembered Helen Keller's words that I quoted above, and decided that I would not let this "impertinence of fate" get me down. After I calmed myself, I discovered that behind the window with the error message was another window that allowed me to save my document before the program closed.

Today I am grateful for the release of the crew, for the freedom of expressing myself on the Internet, where I can find quotes by Helen Keller and prints of almond branches in bloom by Van Gogh, and friends who are my staff of support. I am grateful for the wisdom of my parents who are my mentors. I am grateful for the gifts of my children and what lessons I have learned through them. I am grateful for the hope of nourishment tomorrow that I can see in today's blossoms.

So now I will leave you with these words: Let your staff be one of strength and wisdom. Use your rod to nurture and lead rather than punish and discipline, be it your child or the persons who place barriers in your way. Let your attitude be positive and hopeful. Strive for success, for yourself, your child, and the system, which can work for us if we take care in how we communicate and negotiate our children's needs. Get past the bitterness and anger over what fate has presented. If Helen could do it, so can you and I. And when you feel trapped and hopeless, look for that open window that will help you save your efforts. And remember that miracles do happen, but not always overnight. And not without help. I pray that each child with a Fetal Alcohol disorder can find his or her own personal miracle worker.

Now go tell someone who needs to hear it, "I'm sorry." Go give someone praise that has been earned. Give someone a hug. Give yourself a pat on the back. Make a gratitude list. Tell someone thank you. Nourish yourself.

One thought leads to another. Nourish... Noon... Lunch... Save... Log off.


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