Long title – but a phrase often said by one of the teachers in our high school, Mr. Ruebel.
This past weekend I spent the day celebrating the birthday of a good friend.
Before her party I stopped at our local Kwik Star and had a great conversation with my friend Lisa. Lisa has received some attention for her part in the post that ‘went viral’ (See Day #42 – The Trouble With Peers). We had a wonderful chat about her new found fame. We also chatted about Brandon, another boy in our community who has autism.
It’s the spectrum thing. EVERY child on the spectrum is different. Some children can talk, others can’t, and others do a little. Some children rock, some don’t, and some do a little. Our likeness on the journey of the spectrum is in name only – none of us, our children, or our experiences are exactly alike.
Brandon doesn’t talk much. However, Lisa was telling me that he walked into the store a couple weeks ago singing, “lies, lies, lies, lips, moving…lies, lies lies, lips, moving.” So what did she do? She began singing along. Why? Because it’s easier (and less sad) to live in their world (See Day #92- Square Peg, Round Hole). Brandon was communicating through song – and she joined in.
This got me thinking about what a wonderful community we live in.
Later that night we all ended up back at my friend’s house. Children are always welcome at our gatherings. My good friend Claire has a daughter, Emma. Emma is a very special kiddo. She has cerebral palsy that effects the right side of her body and has nonverbal learning disorder. She spends part of her day with a Special Education teacher and another part in the regular classroom. She is very different than Tucker – but Claire and I have ‘like’ experiences as a mama. Both of us worry incessantly about living alone, about education, about acceptance, about the future…
Emma may never leave Claire’s home – but if she does it will no doubt be to the local apartments. Why? So we can all take care of her. Yes, I said ‘we.’
At that party everyone talked to Emma. My husband shoots hoops with Emma every time he sees her at the gym. Everyone includes Emma. Everyone (at least to my knowledge) high fives Emma. I have not ever seen one person shy away from Emma. Not one.
At that party people were talking about this blog and how much they are learning and passing on to others they know. People were telling me stories about their own experiences with Tuck.
It struck me that night. The conversation about Brandon…watching Emma…reflecting on Tucker.
My friend April has a son whose name is Jack. Jack is A LOT like Tucker. Jack’s hyper-focus is on WW II and when April and Jack are around people say hi to Jack – then they generally leave him alone, unless he wants to talk. I have seen members in our ‘group’ sit and listen to Jack. They may have no idea what they are REALLY doing – or maybe they do. I don’t know. What are they doing? Including him, loving him, accepting him.
I was thinking more about Brandon…and Emma…and Jack…and Tucker.
When I was growing up on the farm there was a man that always came to High School Atheltic events. I knew there was something different about him, but didn’t know what. Everyone talked to him though – everyone made sure he was ok. He rode a scooter around town. I knew there was something different about him, but my parents taught me to always smile and wave.
So I did – always smiled and waved.
Say what you want about small, rural, farm communities; about those ‘fly-over’ communities – but as I reflect I’m becoming convinced it is the best place to raise these special children. We may have to ‘trade-in’ more advanced services and gatherings. We may not have all the technologies and classic diversity. We may not have support groups and programs. We may not have a plethora of highly skilled or highly educated citizens. You know what we do have?
We have a community. A real community. A community of people that come together – for the betterment of all. All. All means all.
People come together and treat these special children as they should be treated – with love, compassion, and possibly most importantly, respect.
I’ll take my small farm community any and every day.