I am driving home as I write this from a Christmas concert I performed at the Beatrice State Developmental Center. It’s a care center for adults with developmental disabilities that provides residential, vocational and recreational services.
And by the way, John is driving, so don’t worry, I’m safe!
The audience tonight was very different from my “typical” audience. The lovely people who live here have disabilities that range from very severe to fairly high functioning.
They started showing up way early for the 7:00 show, and they were bursting with anticipation for the night’s events.
As the concert began, the feeling in the air was absolutely electric! When I started singing Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, they were instantly singing (very loudly!) and clapping along. No need to warm up this crowd. They were all-in from the very first note!
One woman stood up and danced to almost every song, and another woman would periodically scream out in utter delight. The room was filled with absolute, pure, unconditional love and joy. I almost started to cry it was so moving.
Later in the show we did a little sing-along, and they sang Jingle Bells with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever heard in my life. They were literally jumping up and down in their chairs. When I launched into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I thought they would come right out of their skin they were so excited!
It was magical.
After the show, I got bombarded with hugs and heartfelt thank you’s from the residents and also their family members and caregivers. I had introduced John during the show, so he got lots of love as well!
As I write this, tears fill my eyes as I reflect on their childlike wonder. The smallest act of kindness means so much to these simple souls. Even John, my big and tough husband, could not contain his tears as we talked about the evening. He choked up when he talked about the pure love and joy they displayed and their boundless enthusiasm.
I keep hearing the words of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me,” run through my head. These adults function as children, and they are a living example of why Jesus delighted in children and why he told us to have childlike faith.
It’s pure. It’s uninhibited. It’s real.
I get it a little more now. I understand why Jesus wants us to keep it simple. Simple is better. Simple is beautiful.
As I reflect on this experience, my heart feels unbelievably full. My soul has been touched deeply. Besides their absolute joy and love, their ability to live in the moment has had a profound impact on me. They are totally present in the here and now, not caught up in the things to do, places to go, gifts to buy, craziness of this season.They are fully present and fully enjoying the moment.
Friends, this night was SO special! I went there to minster to them, but they ministered to me. They were, no doubt, the best crowd I will perform in front of all year. Possibly ever.
If you’re not choked up already, I want to share one final story. We were enjoying cookies and hot chocolate after the show, and this woman came up to me on a mission. She was so intense as she searched to find the exact words she wanted to say to me. It took her a bit, but when she got the words out, they were so sweet. She said, “Jill, I LOVE you. I want you to come back and sing for us every year!” Then she gave me a huge hug. Oh, my sweet sister, I hope I can. I truly do.
And one thing is for sure, my heart will melt every time I remember this night as I thank God for the opportunity to serve such a beautiful group of people.
Hugs and love,