Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Goal and a Prayer

Just a very quick post. I'm off shortly to the book store. They called the other night and asked if I would come in for a couple hours tonight. They are having a special event for the Autism Society. They said I would either be at cash-wrap or in kids. I called back after we got off the phone and talked to one of the managers. I told her either would be fine but that kids might be a good fit given my counseling background. I'm not sure they realized I had that. Not that I would do counseling tonight or anything. But, I told her I may be less likely than most to be put off by unusual behavior.

Autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed more and more. There are a range of them -- severe and some just kind of quirky. But I know the value in each child feeling valued even if they cannot seem to make eye contact with you or on the other hand grab you out of the blue or if their conversation seems to go round and round or they get mesmerized/stuck on the way the light falls in the room.

I volunteered for 5 years with a behaviorally disordered child. I'm trying to think if his diagnosis fell onto the autism spectrum. I'd have to look. But he would drum and twirl and get "caught" by various things. I was forever redirecting and coaching and encouraging. It wasn't pure autism, but he definitely had some traits.

My goodness, he's probably 17 by now. When I think of him, I always think of the first time I met him. He was stick thin in a dirty white t-shirt and red gym shorts. His blond hair hung just a bit in his eyes. I would ask him a question and he would look at the woman working with him for the answer. But as our comfort grew, that woman stepped out. Soon we were going on outings in the community. I was teaching him how to talk to other adults like at the Steak and Shake in town. We would sit at the counter. He would ask me about the things he saw. I didn't know the answers, but I taught him how to ask the employees. We were such regulars, they started giving us a personal frequent buyer deal on Hot Fudge Brownie Ala mode. I later learned that every Friday (the day I usually came) his teacher at school would hear an hourly announcement that it was "Amy day."

So, I don't know that I will be in kids tonight. It seems like that would be where I would have the most interaction. But I've had some interesting conversations with children at cash-wrap as well.

My goal and prayer is that tonight I make at least one child feel valued and set one parent's heart more at ease in some way. I have no idea what that might look like but that is what I find myself praying at the moment. I thought I would invite you all to join me.

I was a little disappointed to find that they actually put me at cash wrap, but decided that I had told them and God to put me where needed. It was relatively slow. There was another woman at cash wrap as well. I had shared with her previously about volunteering for 5 years with one child. She has been volunteering for a year with a child. She shared with me that she is thinking about stepping out of that even though it is only an hour a week. I got to talk some more about my time with my kid and all the changes I saw. She said, "Yeah, every time I think about quitting I think about how you stuck with it for 5 years!" I had no clue that it had made an impression on her. I had only shared it with her because she was doing something similar. But it was encouraging and I think she might have new resolve to continue.

8:55 rolled around and the Autism Society event was wrapped up and I was just about to log out. A family walked up and the other woman was ringing. The little boy was 7 or 8 and he started talking to me. First it was, "Why is it dark?" And then he looped into Star Wars and Darth Vader and he got stuck in the loop of whatever it was he was trying to express. I could tell his dad was eyeing me for my reaction. But I was delighted to talk to him -- which probably encouraged him to keep going. His dad started to apologize after the seventh cycle. I told him there was no need and it was my pleasure. And it truly was.
I think my time with the other woman and this little guy were both answers to my prayer. One didn't look the way I thought it might, but then just at the end, God gave me a little taste of what I had hoped for.

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