September 4, 2020

Serra Club Vocations Essay

Student sees personal struggles as a way God furthers his kingdom

By Sidney Swindell (Special to The Criterion)

Sidney SwindellIt is difficult for me to answer the question: “How are you allowing God to use you to further his kingdom?”

It’s not because I don’t have an answer, but because answering is hard, because I struggle often. I have Asperger’s syndrome (AS), which makes it difficult to form and keep friends. So, while I don’t have a lot of friends, the ones I do have mean a lot to me.

They are willing to understand my diagnosis and work with me to secure our friendship. I have difficulty concentrating and getting things done like cleaning my room and getting my homework done.

God has given me a capable mind and the ability to understand math and science, yet he left me disadvantaged at the same time by depriving me of the social and focusing skills essential to success.

This has led my parents to seek counseling and medical therapies to help me adapt and cope with these challenges. It has also resulted in changing schools, creating individual education plans and working with teachers to implement the accommodations I need to engage in class and get work done.

Not all schools and teachers have been supportive though. Some of the faith-based schools I attended in the past were unwilling to support me and my needs, which has been frustrating. As a school and club athlete, I have also struggled many times in the past with coaches and bonding with teammates, often being misunderstood, disregarded and ridiculed.

Regardless, I don’t give up. I’m strong and healthy. I was born in a country with freedom and resources, and to parents who are loving, understanding and capable of supporting me academically and materially. These are the gifts God has bestowed on me.

So, in looking through my sadness and frustration with the challenges he has also placed on me, I am enabled to answer the question of how I am allowing God to further his kingdom: psychologists and psychiatrists have an opportunity to learn from treating me how to better treat others. Teachers and school counselors have the opportunity to be exposed to kids like me, unique and in need, and are given an opportunity through God to gain perspective, empathy, understanding and to improve their ability to support me and others in the future.

Coaches and teammates have a chance to grow as people, reflecting later in life on what it was like to coach and play with people like me and make better decisions about how to work and interact with those who are different or struggle socially. All of this then, I believe, is a part of God’s plan for improving his kingdom through these experiences to learn patience, love and understanding.

Though it’s often frustrating having AS, I am an instrument for God’s work. I look forward to a future where I will continue to find lasting friendships, and where I enjoy contributing to God’s world by designing structures to improve his world as an engineer.

(Sidney is the daughter of Richard and Melissa Swindell. She completed the 12th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis this spring and is the 12th-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2020 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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