The headline read, “Cool Hand Luke”, but my sight was so blurred by the tears in my eyes I wasn’t sure I had read it right. It took Kleenex and coffee before I could read the story but the picture and the headline said it all. Luke had won his second tournament of the summer and in just two weeks time his back to back wins and years of hard work were finally noticed by our small town paper. Luke’s won before but the newspaper finally caught up with a headline a press agent would die for.
It sounds vain to want your child’s accomplishments celebrated in such a way. I suppose it is but there’s a lot more to this and everyone who really knows our family understands why. The reporter writing the story doesn’t and that’s the best part. You see he just thinks Luke is another one of the junior players in town working his way up the ranks which is indeed true. For our family and friends, however, it’s another matter entirely. It’s not just Luke’s win it’s ours.
Part of me wants the full story known because it is such a triumph. I’d like to take the reporter aside after Luke’s interview and tell him the back story. It would make great copy and be inspiring but is that fair? I don’t know what the other kids have overcome to get where they are so I’m not sure I should go there. Not to mention one of the goals for Luke has always been to fit in and he’s doing that. He might not be the most eloquent of tennis players but he holds his own and actually handles the attention better than some “normal” kids would.
Still, what I’m dying to tell the reporter is that this kid who at first glance looks like all the other Nike sporting teenagers in his bracket is anything but typical. For most of his life he hasn’t fit in but with tennis he’s found his niche. He’s got a team, or some might say a tribe, and life is a much better thing when you are surrounded by people cheering you on.
I also want to tell the newspaper man that it’s not just Luke winning everyone who has invested in his life both on and off the court is winning. If I were to send a copy of Luke’s headline story to every person that has been a part of his success it would take hours just to get enough papers and even more time and postage to mail them all.
Making the list would be hard. I’m not sure how I’d start. If it were an Academy Award moment the orchestra would cut me off before I’d even made a dent in the list anyway. How do you thank the cast of characters (I say that with love!) that have been involved in Luke’s life since he was four years old? Where all kids have a list of folks who’ve nurtured them – life for an autistic kid requires a longer list.
It’s a list that includes pediatricians, speech therapists, occupational therapists, resource specialists, instructional aides, and other folks who have expertise your kiddo needs. Then you have teachers and volunteers at school who do the day in day out work and deserve more than just a nod. Add to that the children’s church workers, pastors, and Young Life leaders that have all made an extra effort. After compiling those names you could start with the tennis folks and then you should really add the snowboarding instructors because he’s not just a one sport kid. The list keeps growing and you haven’t even mentioned the countless people praying for your kid who do so simply because their heart leads them that way.
When I think about the people who make up this list I know that most of them would think they’ve played a minor role in Luke’s life even some that have worked with him for years. It’s definitely a list of very humble people and usually they refuse to take any credit for his success. Of course this makes them even more special in my mind because they’ve done it for Luke’s gain not their own. I know without a doubt how vital the roles they’ve played have been in what I like to call Team Luke. It’s a caravan of social connections that have been helping him travel through life for over 12 years now. The road has been bumpy at times and sometimes even a bit scary but nobody gave up.
As a result, every one of those people who has been on this journey with us has broadened Luke’s horizons. Where the picture for his life at one time looked narrowly focused it’s now much wider than we could have imagined. These folks have done this first by caring about him and then caring for him. Through each one of them and their various networks we’ve been linked to something that Luke needed and later on down the road something Chase has needed. God’s provision as we’ve traveled has been amazing.
Over the years people have asked me what healing would look like for Luke? Would one day we be able to say he wasn’t autistic anymore or would he always be and it was just a matter of learning to deal with it. These are the kinds of questions that are hard to answer but I usually say I think it will come in layers. I believe that’s how most healing we experience comes – in layers. The philosopher/ogre Shrek said that love and ogres are like onions they have many layers and I’ve hung onto this metaphor believing the same is true of healing.
Healing for Luke has come and is coming in layers. Those layers have been built upon a foundation of God’s grace, mercy, and love demonstrated through all the people who have journeyed through Luke’s life with him. Healing looks like a kid who back in the day could barely tolerate the playground and now walks out onto a tennis court in the blistering sun and gives it all he’s got. He handles the pressure, the distractions, the weather, and even being the center of attention like he was born to do it but in fact he wasn’t. Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses but the picture as a whole is still what healing looks like.
That snapshot isn’t one a reporter or photographer can capture but for those in the know Luke’s face on the front page of the sports section is a picture that is worth a thousand words. Thanks for reading these words and thanks for being a part of God’s healing hand at work in the life of Luke as well as his number one fan Chase.
I don’t know what the future holds but if by chance it includes a Wimbledon final you might want to put in your request for tickets now! In the meantime, there’s plenty of room on the bleachers at GJHS where Luke will be playing this fall. All he asks is that you not say, “Good try!” when he misses a shot.