By: Joseph J. Mazzella
My oldest son, JJ, is 32 years old right now. When he was born we named him Joseph John after me, a slight bit of egotism on my part. Now I feel, though, that I need to live up to his name rather than he has to live up to mine.
When he was just a little boy JJ was diagnosed with Autism and Mental Retardation. His speech was delayed, his learning was limited, and mentally he never truly grew up. Even now although he is quite a talker, he still speaks and acts like a young child. Spiritually, however, I think he may be on a far higher level than I will ever achieve. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on him because whenever he used to meet a friend or someone he knew he would always give them a heart-felt hug. He was so loved by everyone at the sheltered workshop where he worked too but now it is temporarily closed.
One of the people who used to work there is a neighbor of ours and JJ would always stop to talk to her, her husband, and her daughter when he walked his dog. Now they are moving to a new house miles away and we are all going to miss them. Without being asked JJ made them beaded key chains saying “Thanks” and “Good luck.” He also drew them a picture and gave them his smile and his love, freely, happily, and unconditionally just like we are all called to do. I will spend the rest of my life trying to love as purely as my son already does, but I doubt I will ever quite reach his Heavenly level.
There is an old saying that goes: “When God measures a man, He puts the tape around the heart instead of the head.” JJ’s measure must be enormous then. May we all follow his example. May we love freely, kindly, purely, and unconditionally. May we make this world a better place just by being in it. May we live a life that makes Our Heavenly Father proud.