‘Every Child Has a Destiny’

Family Matters: Married Life column for Mother's Day


For so many of us with children with special needs — especially young-adult children — the path is paved with worry and prayerful questions endlessly swirling in our minds: What does the future hold for him? Is there any purpose for the seemingly inexplicable behavior? Is it okay for me to pray for my child to “get better”? Will he ever be able to drive? Does all this effort and exhaustion have any value?

My son, Jimmy, 15, is autistic. While friendly and sweet, it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation with him. 

Yet, several times now, he has come out with spectacularly precise wording that I know was a gift and a divine message for me.  

Not long ago, Jimmy was creating various wood projects in his high-school shop class. After the standard notepad roller, cutting board and napkin holder, he brought home a rather large three-shelf unit that he was clearly proud of. Not having a space for it at home, I suggested we give it to his brother for his dorm room, but it turned out that he had no room for it either. The carefully cut, nailed and sanded shelving piece stood in everyone’s way on our porch while I tried to think of a use for it.

One day, while at work at a local crisis-pregnancy center, I realized we could use Jimmy’s shelf there to hold literature we give to our clients. Jimmy has a vague understanding of how the center helps young moms in unplanned pregnancies, and he was thrilled with the idea of his project being used there daily to hold our brochures.

To give us something to do together and to enhance the look of the bare wood, I set up the shelf in the back yard one afternoon, and Jimmy and I set to work painting it. As we were finishing, I casually said, “Maybe we can think of something to draw or write across the top to make it even more special.”

Immediately and spontaneously, Jimmy said, “How about: ‘Every child has a destiny’?” 

Wow. I put down my paintbrush and stared at him, thinking, “God just spoke to me and to all the people who will see this shelf at the pregnancy-care center!” (It also occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “destiny” myself in my entire life!) For a pro-life pregnancy center, what could be a more appropriate statement?

If 10 friends had thought for a week about a good saying to put across the shelf, would we have come up with anything so perfect?

It gets better: A few days later, when the shelf was dry, we lettered on Jimmy’s terrific quote in gold paint. The next day, I put the shelf in my car and brought it to the office. I had just set it down in the corner and was putting a few stacks of brochures on it when a new client came in for a pregnancy test. I mentioned that my son had made the shelf, and I’d just brought it in.

“Oh, it’s great, and that’s my name: Destiny,” she responded.

Sometimes in our daily struggles in raising our children, it’s easy to overlook the gifts and blessings we have been given.

We can become so immersed in our own worries and burdens that we fail to open our eyes and “see” what is before us as we face our challenges. And sometimes we fail to see how these gifts actually help others. This was a perfect, and rather direct, reminder that I am truly not alone in my trials and that God does have a purpose and a plan for my son. If I prayerfully look for it, God will give me unexpected blessings to help me along, and through these blessings, others will be touched by him, too.

Patty Knap writes from

 Long Island, New York.