Enlarging Territory: My Buddy Sal

Meet Sal. He’s ten years old and he has wiggled into my heart. When I first met Sal, his Momma introduced him to me and explained that he had some speech problems and was a bit autistic. I met him right after Halloween. I remember the first time he came to my Sunday morning class. He was friendly and happy but definitely a bit shaky and unsure of just what he was getting into. Sal came to class with his brother Joey. Now Joey was a bit more apprehensive and only one year older than Sal he pretty much towered over Sal. Joey is extremely autistic and was more than cautious coming into class.

By the end of class, I realized Sunday mornings would never be the same. We would need more help to ensure that the boys could get the most out of our service. Change upset Joey and he would rage while Sal would just rock back and forth if we moved too fast. Nevertheless the boys kept coming and within just a few weeks, we were friends. One Sunday the boys’ mom shared that Sal was going to be put on a feeding tube system sometime in January. I could hardly believe it. He was definitely a little dude but I just never saw that coming.

A few weeks ago, Joey had to be in the hospital for an extended stay. His Mom, who is new to the area, was in a bad spot. She needed to be at the hospital but she needed care for Sal. It seemed natural for Sal to stay with our family. You had better believe I was determined to fatten Sal up. If he would only gain a pound, the NG tube wouldn’t happen. I fed him everything. We made cookies. We had ravioli. We had fried chicken. We had pizza. In between meals, Sal could eat whatever he wanted.

After that weekend Sal went back to the doctor. He hadn’t gained a pound… I had gained three!!! Brokenhearted, I listened to his mom tell me that indeed the procedure would be scheduled. Sal was scared. The tears still roll down my cheeks even as I write this–this kid really gets to me.

He had his proceedure today. He swallowed an NG tube and  if all goes well he will be on a feeding program and  will gain the nutrition he needs. His Mom who has been so willing to share her heart has given permission for me to learn the system so that Sal has a larger circle of freedom…an expanded territory.

My main goal for Empower Youth has always been to give kids a step up, a step out, a step forward. As I prepared myself for today, I keep thinking what a coincidence– what a “God” thing that even in this relationship with Sal and his family that we are filling in the gaps and enlarging his circle.  I hate to write this but I’ll confess, I want to learn how to care for Sal because I want him to receive a camp scholarship from  Empower Youth to attend camp this Summer. I’m fortunate enough to be a dean for a “Supernaturally gifted” 3 day retreat and I know that Sal and his brother Joey would love it!!

Our goal is for Sal and Joey and about a hundred other students to be able to go to camp. While everyone is snowed in–all I’m thinking of is how to organize that many registrations, make sure that many kids have what they need, and how are we going to provide that many partial to full scholarships!!

Empower Youth is all about enlarging the territory of children and youth so that they discover their gifts and strengths and become leaders in their community. I’m not satisfied for Sal to be bound by a feeding tube. My hope is to see him gain strength and not need it.

There are so many children tethered by more than a feeding tube. They need folks to be their buddy and help them enlarge their territory… Neglect, poverty, abuse, drugs, and lack of education are stronger bonds to break. But with your help, Empower Youth will enlarge their territory.

I can’t wait to update this story with new adventures of Sal.

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