Today is April 2nd. Every year on this day the world turns blue - more and more each year. It's encouraging in some ways and perhaps a little discouraging in others.
Discouraging to me because people who are different (and really, who of us isn't different in some way or another) need awareness brought to something before it is acceptable. That's sad to me. We are all different. And that is okay.
Yesterday, while visiting with a friend, her little 16-month old guy was toddling around the house. Every time he came near me, he put his hand on me or leaned against me. He could have put his hand just as easily on the chair or the toy in order to have something to touch. But he didn't. He could have leaned against the couch on the rest of the space that I wasn't in. He chose to lean against me.
I thought about this and about how children really do not have any prejudices or judgments. The only judgement children have is an intuition that tells them if someone is safe and comfortable or not. That's it. There is nothing else that matters. You can be the strangest person and not have a single friend and children will love and adore you and interact with you if you feel safe to them.
Thinking about all of this, I feel a little discouraged that we feel like we need an Autism Awareness Day. It is sad to me that we have been taught and trained to be different than we were when we were born. It reminds me of the words from the song in the play "South Pacific" - the song's purpose was to shed light on ridiculous traditions and hopefully let them be seen for the awful things they were.
Lt. Joe Cable says and sings:
"It's not born in you! It happens after you're born. You've got to be taught to hate and fear. You've got to be taught from year to year. It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You've got to be carefully taught! You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade. You've got to be carefully taught. You've got to be taught, before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You've got to be carefully taught!"
We are taught, generation after generation, to have a prejudice and fear of something. It seems to change depending on the social climate and current world events. But it's still there. Hate. Fear. Different is threatening. Different is unknown and scary. We pass down fear and hate instead of nurturing that beautiful loving, trusting instinct with which we are all born
On the other hand, I feel glad that there is awareness being brought about for people who have legitimate issues that can make them react in ways that seem odd or extreme to others.
This friend I was telling you about, the one I was visiting with yesterday, taught me something that really has changed my life. She taught me, not by her words, but by the way she interacts with me. I have learned that I am the way I am for a reason. It is intentional. The way I think and the way I feel is unique. I see the world in ways that those around me don't. And for this particular friend, my view is lovely. Before I met her, I'd never considered that my view was anything other than different and wrong and needed correcting. I tried for most of my life to see the world the way everyone around me saw it. Only in one-on-one conversations with a trusted few people in my life did I ever share how I saw things. And often, even with those trusted few, my view was answered with what was wrong about it.
This dear friend of mine changed how I feel about myself because she didn't feel the way I've come to expect from everyone around me. She felt more like her little 16-month old guy felt. In emotional/mental ways she would, in effect, lean against me just because I was there or put her hand on me even though there were many other places to rest that hand. She told me, by the way she interacted with me, that my view was beautiful to her. She showed me that how I feel is just right, even if it is different.
My friend taught me by her interactions with me that my brain, being differently wired than many around me, is on purpose. And that purpose is as lovely and unique as I am. It has taken my entire life to feel like I am lovely and unique. And this is the first time I've admitted it to myself or anyone else. But it's true. And it feels really good to see and feel this. I am lovely in my uniqueness. You are lovely in your uniqueness. And wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could feel that way? What a world that would be!
It feels good to know that people cared for by those around them. My hope is that this will carry over. My hope is that when you see a parent struggling with a child in public, rather than assuming it is bad parenting you give them the benefit of the doubt. My hope is that more adults will reach out to those around them in the ways that were instinctive and natural when they were children. My hope is that those who feel different and lonely will know their truth and will find joy in their purposeful existence. My hope is that every person will be able to feel that they are lovely.
So I light it up blue, because to me the color blue brings about healing and hope...the hope that one day this day will be redundant. The hope that every person on this planet will have a friend who makes them feel as good about themselves as my friend has taught me to feel about myself.