My own "Tikun Olam"
| My parents were attending Baptist Bible college in Springfield, Missouri, when I was born. The first pregnancy was a miscarriage, so no doubt they were thrilled to have a child that survived! However, the chord was wrapped around my neck, and I was placed into an incubator after birth. My parents tell me that I was not an easy baby - I had cholic for a long time; my parents wondered if it was worth having another child, seeing how I was so difficult. They did - three and a half years later, my sister was born in St. Louis. She was an extremely easy baby, my parents say. However, at age two, she caught a terrible case of the chicken pox and stayed in the hospital for days and days and almost died.
My parents had an interesting time with me. One particular incident stands out in my mind (I was two years old at the time). My mom was in her room taking a nap (because I was so exhausting!), I was in my bed (it had bars around to keep me from falling off it) taking a nap also, and she woke up to check on me and was horrified to see that I was out of bed, and somehow climbed over the bars and walked across the room and climbed up the dresser. I had picked up the lamp that was on the dresser (which was still plugged into the wall), unscrewed the bulb, and pulled out the wiring. Usually, that would result in electrocution and death, especially in a toddler. As I look back on these incidents, I notice that God already had His hand on me.
Not only did He have His hand on me, but also on my family. We moved from St. Louis to upstate Minnesota for a year, then to Virginia Beach, Virginia for six months, then to Tennessee - all by the time I was five. We moved around so much because my parents had financial problems, but God was still with us.
As I grew older, my parents began noticing certain patterns and behaviors in me. A doctor diagnosed it as Tourrette Syndrome. As with anything, each person’s case is different. Some can have it worse than others. Mine was always mild, but it was quite bad, but it has decreased over the years. When I was ten, the doctor prescribed medication for it. This particular medicine came in two forms - in pill form and as a patch; my parents decided on the patch. I wore it on my chest, but it was extremely itchy, and it reacted to my skin by turning that area white. It was moved to my back, where I could not reach it. But that was even more torturous, so, I moved to the pill form two years later. Interestingly, the medicine had a nasty side effect - intense drowsiness. I slept all summer and through the sixth grade - literally during school. In the sixth grade, there was a short break in the middle of the day. Most other people chatted with their friends, I slept. My teachers noticed and talked to my parents about it. The specialist I saw asked if I wanted to stay on the medicine or get off it; I decided to stop taking it. That was the best decision - I have been clear-headed ever since.
My sister and I went to a Christian school in Tennessee. I was in kindergarten when we first started attending there, until the fourth grade. My parents decided to send me to the public school because I needed speech therapy, and the Christian school did not offer it but the public school did. I also needed special tutoring in math (I hated math and still do!). So, both my sister and I transferred to the public school (the public school was five minutes away from where we lived, while the Christian school was a half hour). I never knew why I needed speech therapy, and my parents never explained why. At the public school I found out why.
If I have any bad memories of childhood, it would be of this short stay at public school. The other children in the class began noticing my tics (from the Tourrette Syndrome) and my stuttering problem (this is why I needed speech therapy). So, they pointed them out to me. Literally, Monday through Friday, September to May, during the non-class times, they mocked and made fun of me. Several times a week, I went home crying to my parents, “Send me back to the other school!” Apparently, I was becoming quite known in that school; my sister even had fights with the children in her class about me. Also, during this time, my Tourrette’s was at its worst, and it was also at this time that I was taking the medicine in the patch form.
The speech therapy was not really therapy, we never worked on techniques or how to speak. There were four of us who also needed therapy, each for different reasons. We mostly played games, but the games involved speaking. I guess that was one way of therapy, getting us accustomed to speaking and not be afraid of it.
Not everyone in my class made of me, but I had only one friend, named Ashton Roberts; we became best friends. We spent a lot of time together, we stayed at each other’s houses a few times. He also witnessed the brutality I experienced. One particular day, it was lunch time, and when we left for the lunchroom, Ashton told me that, when I was in speech class, the teacher was out of the room for twenty minutes, and those who sat around me kicked over my desk, knocking everything out of it, and he alone cleaned up everything. The teacher returned after the incident occurred, no evidence of anything happening.
Out of all the mocking and making fun of my tics and my stuttering that I endured, there is one event that I deem to be the worst. There was no mocking my tics or speech this time; in fact, it was not that bad. This was nearing the end of the school year. Lunchtime was over, and we were bringing our trays to the lunch lady, and then got in line to return to the classroom. After I returned my tray, I was walking rather briskly past the tables to get into line. Someone still sitting at the table kicked a chair onto its side, allowing me to trip and slide across the floor. People started laughing, as they would. You might be thinking, “How is this the worst experience? It really is not that bad.” And you are correct, far worse things had happened. What makes it the worst is that, in addition to everyone else laughing at me, Ashton, my only friend, joined in with them laughing. He had no sympathy or concern that I skinned my shin quite severely. Laughing, he said, “That was a nice stunt, Ryan!” That one made me cry. The people who usually mocked me also laughed, but that did not seem to matter since they did it all the time any way. But Ashton, my only friend, laughing at me as well really hurt. My parents took me for counseling over this incident since it extremely traumatized me. Ashton and I began drifting apart over the last couple weeks, which I now see as God breaking off all ties to that school because my parents let my sister and me return to the Christian school. I never had a “best friend” since.
Since I never knew I had it, the mocking was such a shock. It was as if I was being brutally mocked daily for no reason. I asked one girl, Barbara Jean (her nickname was BJ), why she always made fun of me. Her response was, “Why? Just for being you.” It’s one thing when someone makes fun of another because their “ears are too big,” or their “hair is too short,” etc. etc. etc. Looking at that, everyone has such things. However, it is yet another thing when someone makes fun of another’s speech, things that cannot be helped. A few of my tics were my eyes widened suddenly, my neck tensed, and then my stuttering problem. Ever since then, I have striven to be “normal,” treated like everyone else. No one else is being mocked for how they speak, so why should I be? Having Tourrette Syndrome and a speech impediment does not make me less of a person. I also never liked being left out of things because, when not being mocked, I was ignored and no one wanted to do anything with me or be with me. I was always the last one chosen in gym class, and people only picked me because they had to pick. I think, if it were their choice, they would not have even picked me at all.
This one year scarred me for good. I later found out that I did not even need to be at that school. Other parents were gravely concerned about the class, about how the teacher - her very first teaching job - received the position. However, one never knows until one tries. My parents had the best intentions for my sister and me, and they never anticipated what happened. They tried to help me get a social life, but obtaining that social life was the cause of all the problems.
A year later, we moved to upstate New York in 1994. My sister and I attended a Christian school, and then we both went to a Christian college.
For years, I carried these scars and wounds. After we moved to upstate New York, a pastor said in a sermon, “There will always be people who are better off than you and worse off than you.” That told me that, even though I was bad off, worse off than other people, there are those who are worse off than I am. My problems were big, but others had bigger problems. The pastor also preached a series of forgiveness, about how we need to forgive everyone who has wronged us, including those who may have died, those who are far away, because we ourselves will be freed from those burdens. If we do not, we will become enslaved, and the health will deteriorate.
So, I forgave all those people who hurt me. It was a major challenge, but I did it.
In 2004, I completed my college degree in seven semesters instead of the normal eight, which was a miracle. Towards the end of the semester, I was worrying about finding employment to help pay off my loans, what I would be doing, etc. etc. etc. I nearly gave myself a heart attack in class! I knew I could do nothing about it, and I let God take care of it. He has ever since. He found me a job within two months of finishing college. It was at a paper mill, working as a temp. The hours were long, the place was dirty, the people were foul-mouthed, but God still provided for me, and He let my light shine. I worked there for four years. So, after seeing that I was obedient to Him and whatever else He wanted to see and perform in my life, He found me a better job where the hours were shorter, the place was clean, and the job offered benefits.
In 2007, God began to show me that all the bad things that happened to me were for a purpose. If those things had not happened, I would not be who I am today. Another example - Abraham Lincoln failed school, he suffered major bouts of depression that most other people would never be able to handle. Yet, because he went through that, he was the country’s greatest president. So, God had been telling me, “Surrender to Me.”
He also has promised to heal my stuttering problem.
He has allowed me to hear His voice so clearly in my head, He has shown me things that most people never see. Moses had a stuttering problem, yet God used him to rescue the Jewish people from bondage. God has hinted to me about all the amazing things that He has in store for me, all because I was faithful to Him and to His word and how I should live, and because He simply loves me.
This is basically my story. I pray that God uses my experiences as a way to bring healing to others.