Pumpkin pie was, hands down, my favorite Thanksgiving dessert growing up. My mom always made a variety of pies, but Pumpkin was the only one I would eat. And it had to be cold… and smothered with whipped cream. Cest magnifique! I love that the Pilgrims founded America and all, but if they hadn’t brought the pumpkin pie recipe can you imagine how different life in these United States would be? Thank God they grabbed that cook book!
Anyway, the reason I share my uncompromising devotion to Pumpkin Pie is because a few years ago I was introduced to something different, Pumpkin “Crunch.” I know, I know… why do people mess with perfectly good recipes? I’ll leave that rant to another blogger.
All I know is that I was excited about eating Pumpkin Pie to wash down my turkey, and this rectangular imposter was sitting where the circular pie pan should have been. I was expecting a molasses brown surface with just the slightest appearance of a ripple emanating from the center of the pie. Instead, I saw a golden brown, crumbly crust covering the Pumpkin “Crunch” from one edge of the four-sided, fraud of a pie pan to the other. Thankfully, the host had a proper Pumpkin Pie waiting in the wings for the true autumn dessert connoisseurs. I savored my familiar Pumpkin Pie and watched in disgust while the unorthodox few consumed the Pumpkin “Crunch.”
Pumpkin “Crunch” was different. It wasn’t what I expected. I questioned its maker good sense.
But, one day I mustered up the courage to try this crunchy stand-in, because pie was unavailable. I looked quizzically at the square on my plate and felt like a traitor. I firmly pressed the side of my fork onto the protective crust to cut a bite sized piece, placed a bite into my mouth and… it was glorious! The buttery, crunchy crust was to the pumpkin pie foundation what the cool, yellow line that signifies a first down was to watching football on TV: a surprisingly perfect addition.
Seven years ago I was all about “pumpkin pie people.” I liked what was familiar and resisted those who were different from me. I just didn’t realize what that “different” was. I had friends from many different clutures, religions, and social strata, but I was still living amongst the pie people. On February 16, 2004 God brought a “pumpkin crunch person” into our world as we welcomed our first child. My wife and I would eventually learn that our son, Caedmon, had Cerebral Palsy.
We were anticipating, dare I say hoping, for a familiar round child and found ourselves blessed with a rectangle.
He would be different. He wasn’t going to be what I expected. Some would even question his Creator’s good sense.
Just as Pumpkin Crunch forced me to rethink my judgements and preferences; Caedmon opened my eyes and heart to the unique wonder of unfamiliar people. I was once blind. No, I once chose to look away, but now I see!
Before I tried Pumpkin Crunch, I didn’t care what was in it. All I wanted was my familiar Pumpkin Pie. But after my surprising conversion, I now could make it from memory and even prefer it around Thanksgiving.
Before I met Caedmon and began sharing his journey, I didn’t care about people with Cerebral Palsy, or any other unfamiliar person. All I thought I wanted was a “normal” kid. (I share my heart about “normal” here.) But after meeting our extraordinary son, I now can explain to you what C.P. is and how to manage it. I could tell you the unique intricacies of how his mind works and what makes it so cool. I could share with you all of the incredible things I learn from him and see in him, that I wouldn’t have been able to see before.
You see, having Cerebral Palsy, Autism, or Downs Syndrome isn’t about having a disability; it’s about living in a different culture. If you were to jump on a plane and begin living in Mozambique tomorrow you would be a bit out of your comfort zone. They speak a different language, have different mannerisms, eat different foods different ways, and get excited or down about different things. They are the same… but different. Not better, not worse, different… than you.
I have come to think of people with CP, Autism, etc. the same way I think about people who live in remote Alaska or Barcelona. They are foreign to me, but I am intrigued by their culture. My wife and I became unsuspecting parents of an exchange student and have developed a love for his culture. Had we not been granted that opportunity, we would have never appreciated his culture.
I know it can be intimidating to interact with someone who acts in was unfamiliar to you.
I’ve been there. I’ve thought the thoughts. I’ve feared the fears.
But, can I encourage you to move beyond the safe, familiar “pumpkin pie experiences” and venture out into the wonderfully brilliant world of new cultures. Contact your communities Special Olympics program. Google “Challenger Sports” or “Miracle Sports” and see if there is one in your area. Call your school system and see if there is a specific school. And volunteer. Plug in. Immerse yourself in the culture and see if you don’t fall in love… I did.