Once Upon a Dream
Posted on May 12, 2014
Once upon a time there was a group of teens and young adults. Because they were different from most of society, they often missed out on rites of passage common to typically functioning persons. Commonplace rituals like getting your driver’s permit or going to the prom were not common to their experience. And once they got out of high school, the usual options of college, technical school or job placement were not open for them. As a matter of fact, after the age of 22 there were very few options for social interaction of any kind with their peers. This left them vulnerable to depression, anxiety, isolation and loneliness.
This may sound like one of Grimm’s darker fairy tales but in fact it is the routine experience of many PURE people as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. PURE parents everywhere dread the age of 22, when they loose most of the services their child has obtained over the years through the public school system. They are left adrift to find meaningful experiences for a young adult who was no less a person in need of these services when they were 21 years and 11 months of age than they are at age 22.
But once upon a dream ConnectAbility was born. With the idea that we can provide events that serve to foster, build and sustain PURE relationships, this ministry envisaged more for PURE people than lives lived in purposeless isolation. And, piece-by-piece, they sought to restore those rights of passage and the relationships necessary to live as fully contributing members of a community.
I visited one such rite of passage in April as ConnectAbility hosted their annual SideKicks Prom. But more than an opportunity for PURE people to build relationships with one another, I witnessed the act of a community recognizing inherent worth and value in those we call PURE.
Hosted at the clubhouse of a local golf course, it was a no-holds-barred special event. As a matter of fact, when I pulled to the guard house to gain entrance onto the premises the guard on duty said, “Oh yeah, big prom tonight. It’s ahead up the hill on the left. It’s a real big deal. You can’t miss it.” Truer words have never been spoken.
We arrived to find volunteers busily taking photos of the PURE prom goers and the guests accompanying them. Fragrant corsages and boutonnieres were readily pinned to lapels and tied to delicate wrists. From inside the clubhouse music spilled out onto the putting green and into the parking lot. Once inside we found that no detail had been overlooked in decorating for this special night. Balloons filled the dance floor and tulle had been festooned everywhere to create a festive atmosphere. A photo booth had been set up complete with hats, feather boas, silly glasses, headdresses and carnival masks for guests to use to commemorate the joy of this night. And there was even a DJ, who approached to ask if we had any special requests for music to be played because, in her words, “we don’t want to leave anyone out who might want to dance tonight.”
But perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening was the arrival of the non-PURE guests. Jacqueline Daniel, President of ConnectAbility, told me later that all planning and decorations for the prom had been a project completed by students at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, GA. I suppose that is why it looked like such a “typical prom” – because it was designed and created by typically developing teenagers. But their involvement didn’t end there.
As the music began, I witnessed these same students dancing in the arms of their new PURE friends. Later in the evening, the youth group from a local church came to attend the prom alongside the PURE community from ConnectAbility. Soon the dance floor was a mass of teenagers and young adults and it was truly (and blissfully) difficult to distinguish the hosts of the party from the PURE guests.
It suddenly occurred to me that this is what the final Resurrection will look like. Much like the story of The Great Banquet in the Gospel of Luke, the norms that our culture insists on valuing were simply non-existent at this party. Just as the Kingdom of Heaven was opened for a much larger audience than the Jesus’ Jewish listeners anticipated, this kingdom come necessitates the arrival of a “timeless future” where all are welcome, accepted and honored in the absence of the cultural norms that bind us this side of eternity.
And in the light of this liberating freedom, they all danced. In high heels and in wheelchairs, they danced. On their knees because their partner was bound to their walker, they danced. When they didn’t know the steps and the music was unfamiliar, they danced because in the presence of much acceptance they could not fail.
One PURE mom wrote the following words to describe her son’s experience:
It is a rare occasion when our PURE son is offered an event of the quality and ambience of the prom that was held at Achasta this past weekend. From the enthusiastic greetings at the door, to the excitement of the balloons inside, and the friendliness and communication of the DJ and volunteers, the evening was special for both Jason and us. We appreciate all The ConnectAbility Team does to reach out to families like ours.
All because once upon a dream, we are more alike than we are different. In this dream, being created in the image of God levels the playing field to the point where cultural norms do not exist. In this dream everyone can dance, as a PURE person in a wheelchair or as a typically developing person with two left feet. ConnectAbility has dreamed a better dream for PURE people and for our entire world.
 Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 396.