Written by a Carousel Ranch dad, about the day that Ayla warmed his heart with her incredible spirit and wisdom far beyond her years.
"The other day I was at Carousel Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA, a place which provides equestrian therapy for special needs children. For many years my son went there, before he decided to stop. Years later, out of nowhere, he asked to return. His mother and I gladly obliged his request, and as I was walking around the property noticing the amazing changes that had taken place in the three years of our absence (the arena is now covered, a play area had been constructed, landscaping was everywhere) my thoughts were interrupted by a voice.
“Hi. How are you?” a little girl near me asked, the question like a hug, because it was warm, and you could tell that she meant it. I looked down. She was tiny, but she had a smile so big that it nearly tipped her over.
“I’m fine. How are you?” I replied.
“Good. It’s a nice day!” she marveled, nodding her head vigorously, as if her excitement alone could make it so, just in case I was having a bad day.
We chatted. I learned that her name was Ayla. She learned that mine was Tony. She told me of the horses that she rode and I told her that my son went there, and loved the horses too. She wanted to tell me of her favorite instructor and a funny story about one of her lessons, and as she did, bit by bit, my heart began to swell, because that’s what genuine human interaction does: it opens the heart.
As she spoke, I wondered if this little girl who was supposedly “different” was not the most “normal” of all. I didn’t wonder this in any philosophical or altruistic way, not in a way that could be perceived as being patronizing or condescending. This is not a “puff-piece-feel-good-and-humble” sort of blog today. I’m serious. What if God means for all of us to care about each other with warmth, look at each other with love, smile at each other with genuine encouragement and talk to each other in fellowship? If so, then the only ones that are really “disabled” in this world are the rest of us, you and me, the “normal” ones who are so good at creating labels and keeping safe distances.
So often I have noticed members of the special needs community (we’ve even given them their own "community") display raw and vulnerable human spirit that is mesmerizing. It reaches out and touches, but embraces as well. Ayla doesn't care about differences; she's in the business of similarities. She's there to remind us that it really is as simple as noticing something we all share, like the sun, and saying something we all know how to say, like “Hi”, and wondering something deeply and genuinely, like “How are you?”