5: Lessons from Matt

5: Lessons from Matt

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

Lessons from Matt

By Peggy Purser Freeman

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

~Matthew 25:40

“Just what am I doing in a place like this?” I had turned down this job assignment two years before, but now it was this job, as an aide in the school for the severe and profoundly disabled, or no job. This was the oldest building in the district. The walls reeked with fifty years of sweat, vomit, and vermin odor. It had been one of the city’s most beautiful facilities; now it warehoused those whom some administrators wanted out of sight and out of mind.

The small bathroom smelled of urine and human waste. The hard tile floor cut into my knees. I slung the jeans I had just pulled off the thin, braced legs of my nine-year-old charge and grumbled aloud.

“I wanted to write songs and stories for you, God.”

I had spent most of my three weeks at this job with Matt, trying to get him to go to the bathroom on the potty, put a block in a can or at least make eye contact. To get him to look me in the eyes proved to be the most difficult. His eyes seemed to be the only thing he was able to control. He had no verbal skills, little motor control. All he had was the ability to look away or squeeze his eyes shut, anything but eye contact.

As I took the soiled underwear off Matt to clean his legs and bottom, I dropped the feces-covered underwear on my dress. “Oh, Matt, look what you’ve done!” I screamed.

He gave his soundless laugh and smiled a grin made toothless from the many falls his wobbly legs had taken. Most days that smile would have melted my heart, but not today. My love was stretched thin, and my patience broke. “God, I hate this.”

The small room grew still, and I felt Matt’s stare. I glanced up and met his eyes. Large and luminous, they looked into mine, staring into my soul. In the quietness of the moment, I heard words with my heart — not Matt’s voice and not mine.

“I didn’t ask you to rewrite Sunday school literature. I didn’t ask you to write songs. I said if you do it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” Then Matt looked away.

God spoke to my heart in a most profound way in that smelly bathroom. In the years that followed, I learned to listen, and Matt taught me so many things. You don’t have to be capable of seesawing to sit on one and enjoy white clouds in a blue sky. Soundless laughter and silent tears often communicate better than words. Life in its most simple form is sometimes life at its best. Probably the best lesson I learned: God talks the loudest through the weakest.

More stories from our partners