Several adults with special needs attend our church. Tim is one of my favorites. After you read his story, I think you'll see why.
Tim rides the church van on Sundays. Physically he's a man, mentally he's a child. Frances, not without her own challenges, often rides the van as well. "Frances isn't here today," he told me one day last February, looking disappointed. He'd been noticeably watching for her from his usual place in the front pew, his head turned, eyeing the back doors that lead into the sanctuary. "Maybe she and her mom are just running late," I said hopefully.
I hadn't realized how much Tim liked Frances until the previous Sunday, the day after Valentine's Day. He held up a small Walmart bag as I walked into the Sunday School classroom that morning, eager to show me what was inside. It was a homemade valentine made out of a paper doily. "It's for Frances," he told me proudly. But Frances didn't come that morning. She'd had her tonsils out that week and was recuperating. And now a week later he was once again watching for her, eagerly hoping, still clutching onto that same Walmart bag. But she didn't come that morning either. I approached him after the service. "Why don't you let me take the valentine and I'll get word to her mom that I have it. Maybe she can pick it up for Frances."
I peered into the Walmart bag after Tim left and couldn't help notice how rumpled the doily was by now. That extra week in its confines had been hard on it. But I sent word to Mom that I had a special delivery for her daughter and would she mind stopping by for it when able. Within hours Tim's homemade valentine was in the hands of dear, sweet Frances, still not feeling the best after her recent tonsillectomy.
Frances returned the following week. "Did you get your valentine?" I asked. She nodded shyly with a touch of pink blushing her cheeks. She obviously wasn't quite sure what to do with the attention. Tim sat close by smiling. Frances was back and she had acknowledged his gift, his valentine. It was but a simple homemade heart. Much like coloring pages mounted by magnets on refrigerator doors, Tim had created out of childlike innocence something special for Frances, the girl that he thinks about and looks for when he comes to church each Sunday morning. And his heart was full.
One particular Sunday as I was sitting at the keyboard leading worship, my eyes fixed on Tim, sitting there in that very same front pew. As the song was concluding, he raised his head, closed his eyes and put both hands to his heart. In simplicity, in childlike abandon, giving all he had, his heart to his Creator. The one who made him. Exactly as he is. And my heart was full.