By Jenna Ebener
(Editor’s note: Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)
I have a quote hanging in my office that reads: “Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day,” and I think that is so important to keep in mind. Each day is unique, full of surprises and often goes by quickly, regardless of how much of the work gets done that I planned for that day.
While there are days that I leave feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I never leave without reflecting on my “daily smile.” So many little pockets of joy are tucked into each day. It might be a student walking up to me and exclaiming “It’s me!” or a student trying to come to my office with her walker (outside of sessions) — even though she used to resist entering the office. Or maybe it’s a staff member saying thank you or giving me a helping hand. Even when my students are engaging in maladaptive behaviors, I often find something to smile about such as a student rolling down the hallway because she does not want to walk. I see these continuous smiles as little reminders from God as to why I love my profession and school so much. I was especially reminded of this passion during our recent Halloween celebration.
One of the events I look forward to each year is Halloween. It is one time when having a disability, I think, is seen as a strength. I am continually blown away at the incredible costumes our parents make for their children, costumes that would not be nearly as amazing without their wheelchairs. I have seen Cinderella in her carriage, the Cat in the Hat in his Thingamajig, Merida in “Brave” surrounded by her horses, and a police officer in a SWAT vehicle, just to name a few. Each year, my heart is so incredibly warmed by the time, effort and love that our parents have put into these mind-blowing costumes. They truly go all out, often coming with their other children, many of whom are in themed costumes. Even our staff members go all out and dress up in themes.
It is moments like these that give me such an incredible amount of love, joy and respect for our students, our parents and our entire school. The compassion for our students is so palpable that I cannot imagine being anywhere else. To know that these amazing parents who love their children so unconditionally entrust them to us instills in me a desire to want to persevere as much as our parents persevere every day.
I can see God so clearly in everyone — from our students to parents to staff. I see all of the different forms love can take: parents striving to give their children experiences that any typical child would have, staff working hard every day to help our students reach their full potential, students expressing joy on their faces. The simplicity of their joy is a great reminder for me as I write down my daily smile and remember Jesus’ quote that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Those times I feel closest to God are when I am like our children, not giving way to worry and stress, but simply enjoying the moment.