This is a story that I am very familiar with, so I found it odd when I began sobbing as I watched. This is the community that I grew up in and the high school that I attended. Radio was an everyday part of my high school life. He hugged me and would sit with me at lunch. I often shared my lunch with him and I would bake cookies for him. We had a routine: 1. hug 2. he'd ask "you bake me cookies?" 3. he'd whisper in my ear, "don't tell nobody, you my girlfriend."
You were guaranteed to see Radio sitting at his desk near the main office taking up attendance cards. (Yes, we still used real paper and pencils for things in the 90's.) He was just a part of the package that was attendance at T L Hanna High School. I love Radio and consider it a blessing to have had him as a part of my high school experience.
This morning Radio's story hit me differently. Yes, I had a bond with Radio and enjoyed the times that I have had with him. Yes, he was one of the bright parts of a high school experience that I didn't particularly enjoy. There are many things about that not so great experience that I have been able to look at in hindsight and see God's providential hand. Things that I couldn't see or even imagine as a 13-17-year-old girl. Well, one of those things just hit me this morning as a 40-year-old woman.
Who could have ever thought that God was using that experience with Radio to soften my heart to those with intellectual disabilities? God was planting a seed in my heart that I wouldn't see unearthed for 20+ years. Those days that I sat and opened his food packages at the lunch table, the days that I leaned in a little more to be able to understand his broken speech, the days that I gave hugs and cheers for his seemingly minor accomplishments, the days that I was just a friend and treated him like every other kid at that lunch table. Who knew all of those days were just glimpses into what the rest of my life would look like.
With the help of an unassuming, radio-loving, intellectually disabled man, God was preparing me for a life of loving and fighting for my own intellectually disabled son and those like him. Radio was just a small stepping stone in finding a passion and purpose in my life. It may have come long after I walked the halls of T L Hanna High School, but I found it, am running hard to pursue it, and am forever grateful for the seeds that were planted in my heart!