Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ANGELS AMONGST US - Volunteer Parent-Members

In a world where most people move at break neck speeds and never stop to smell the roses, let alone help another human being, I sometimes find myself searching the crevices and cracks of my life for a helpful soul I can call my next angel. Certainly, I appreciate the lady who let me pull out of the gas station driveway and into traffic ahead of her when the light changed -- even though she could have just hit the gas and let me wait until she and all the other cars had passed. I'm certain she had her own time-constrained agenda at 8:15 am on a Wednesday morning. And, she couldn't know that I was late getting the boys to school [again]. Sadly, I couldn't even thank her properly beyond a friendly wave as I quickly pulled in front of her. No doubt, she let me in without giving it much thought. That's usually the way angels operate! I also appreciate the lady who held the door for me at the boys' school when she saw me struggling to open it with my teeth (or elbows given all the swine flu germs circulating about) as I held tightly to the boys' hands. God knows I could not let go of their hands before I get them safely into their classroom lest they run off to join the circus or get onto the elevator unescorted ending up in the parking garage (entirely possible). At least I was able to say a proper "thank you" to her.

St. Theresa is the saint of small ways which encompasses these small but kind gestures. At least Theresa was sainted after a lifetime of performing small but very good deeds. I'm not sure what kind of recognition my two "small ways" angels above will end up with. Every gesture, no matter how small, should be recognized and acknowledged, if not with a blog post then, at the very least, a sincere "thank you" at the time the gesture is made. But, what about the people who make grander gestures by giving of themselves to help others even when they're already torn in 100 different directions with their own lives? In the past, I've dedicated my Angels Amongst Us post to professionals who choose careers helping children like mine... I do find their dedication and commitment amazing. But today, not to detract from those professionals, I'd like to dedicate this post to those who volunteer their time to help others in need... without the benefit of pay!

Two women come to mind, both of whom happen to have children with special needs and yet still choose to volunteer their limited time despite an otherwise full plate. Today's angels are Lisa and Cathy.

In addition to being the Vice President of the Parent Association at the boys' school, Lisa is a parent-member of the Committees on Preschool and School-Age Education (CPSE & CSE) in her home school district. She undertakes these roles for the sole purpose of being involved and helping others like her -- who have a child with special needs -- maneuver through the educational systems as smoothly and as beneficially to their children as possible.

"Cathy" -- not because it's her name but for because I cannot pronounce, let alone spell, her real name -- is the owner of Fox's Pizza Den in Oceanside. Not only does she run a family business with her husband, where she happily accommodated my children's post-tonsillectomy dietary needs (in addition to meeting our usual weird "When-Harry-Met-Sally" ordering specifications)... Like Lisa, she also volunteers as a parent-member of the Committees on Preschool and School-Age Education (CPSE & CSE) in her home school district.

A parent-member is a legally required participant in the committee on preschool or school-age education that helps identify how the school system will address the educational needs of a child with a disability. Though the parent can decline participation of a parent-member, generally, this person is there to provide moral and informational support on behalf of the parent and from the parent's point of view. Most parent-members are themselves parents of children with special needs and have been through the CPSE/CSE process before. As such, they can ask pertinent questions, identify issues and make suggestions without the emotional stress and pressure usually felt by the parent of the child in question. They are an invaluable resource there, invariably, to help other parents make more informed educational decisions for their children. To give back to their community and members of their home school district.

Neither Lisa or Cathy receive any financial reward for the volunteer work they do. However, I know that while both are recognized and appreciated by their [paid] colleagues/committee co-members, I'm certain their efforts are sustained by the gratitude they receive from the other mothers they serve so well. Thanks to you both for being such a shining example of how Angels Amongst Us live and give on a daily basis. You are both an inspiration to me.

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