Yesterday Paul needed to get some service hours in for Scouts. He elected to paint the fence at our church. It was hot and the fence sat square in the path of the intense rays of the scorching sun. Six hours spent working in the sun is difficult for anyone but even more so for a young autistic teenage boy with no previous painting experience. Fortunately, one of the older members of our congregation (R) was there to provide guidance and cheer him on.
I love it when old and young connect. There is something almost magical that happens when wisdom meets youth. Learning occurs in an unstructured setting and life’s lessons are conveyed easily. More importantly, both parties share those things that are important to them and greater understanding of the world and each other is obtained by both.
When he arrived home Paul was stoked and could hardly wait to tell me about his afternoon. But it wasn’t the fence he talked about. It was the connection that he made that mattered the most to him.
“Did you know that R served in the Korean War?” my sweet Korean boy asked.
“I had no idea,” I replied.
And so Paul sat with me and excitedly told me all that R had shared with him. Things about the war, what the country of Paul’s birth looked like back then, and how his life had changed because of his service. They also talked about what boys did growing up in the 40’s, how times have become more complicated and R’s ideas about the important things in life. But most of all Paul gained a friend. A man who could teach and discuss without being parental. A person with whom Paul could relate his troubles regarding peers in school and his concerns for the world as he navigates becoming a young adult.
It’s funny how sometimes in doing things for others you gain something special and totally unexpected for yourself. This weekend Paul learned from R the value of a friendship with someone older and wiser than himself. He learned to share problems and issues and listen to good advice in return. And more than just learning about how to paint fences he was also taught how to mend a few too.