Have you ever felt like you were alone and no one understood what you were going through? I have to be honest, in the first year after my son was diagnosed with autism, I felt that way a great deal of the time. For me that feeling of isolation got better over time. I was lucky that some people reached out their hands and showed me that my family’s journey was a group marathon, not a solo sprint. Those helping hands made all the difference and I am forever grateful to them. But if I’m completely honest there are still days, 7 years after we first got that diagnosis, that I marvel at the sometime complete lack of compassion for what my son has gone through, and what so many other families dealing with autism are going through. “Where is the compassion, where is the perspective taking from people who are supposedly neuro-typical??!!!” I sometimes rage. Those moments leave me feeling powerless and I’ve decided to do something about it.
Sometimes things in our lives happen that shake us to the ground and remind us what is important. Two things happened recently that forced me to look around with fresh eyes. On December 9th of last year my Mom died. I had not even caught my breath when less than a week later the Sandy Hook Massacre took place. Like so many, I was forced to my knees. A haze of “nothing can ever be good again” surrounded my every thought. I couldn’t stay in that place. Not for myself and certainly not for my child. I remember thinking that I just needed to be a part of something good, something hopeful. My family instituted something called “Random Acts of Mom”, where everyday we would each do something good, to commemorate my mother. They were small gestures, sometimes even just being patient with ourselves. We all noticed that when the action was turned toward someone else our painful load was lightened. It was a blessing in a dark time.
One of the most rewarding aspects of our “Random Acts of Mom” was having the opportunity to talk to my son about showing compassion. It just so happened that a child at school was being “not very nice” to my son at the same time. I heard myself tell him, “If you want to get compassion from someone, the quickest way to do it is to show compassion towards them.” As soon as I said it I realized that I hadn’t been living it. How many times had I railed on the lack of compassion shown for individuals with Autism? And how many times had I gone out of my way to show compassion for someone going through something else? My equation needed some work.
Earlier that day my niece had been telling me about a young Dad who was going through the devastation of a particularly aggressive brain cancer. I felt bad for the family, of course, I said I would include them in my prayers, and then I went on with my life. Because that’s what we do…that’s what everyone does. Except when they don’t. Sometimes people reach out a hand and say¸ “I see what you’re going through, I can’t fix it, but I want to do something nice for you.” In that moment I knew I wanted to do something for that young dad. I asked my niece what I could do and she told me his church had asked members to shave their heads, as an act of solidarity and to raise funds. Someone had generously offered to pay $100 to every man, and $300 for every woman in the church who would shave their heads. Many men stepped up to the plate, but not a single woman. Did I want to shave my head? I’m not a member of his church, but Yes! I really did want to shave my head for this young Dad. Which is why I have agreed to do it during a live show of Autism Live on April 8th. Yes. Bald. Totally. Me. April 8th. And I can’t wait!!! Now I want to share the good feeling!
I want everyone to feel the power that comes from doing something nice for someone else. And…I want the world to see how compassionate the Autism community is and can be. We ask for compassion for our kids, let’s model it for the world! Let’s show them what true compassion looks like. Let’s do it in such a way that it can’t be missed; all of us together putting Compassion in Action!
All this month I will be asking what YOU would like to do to put Compassion in Action! You may decide to do a fund raiser for an Autism charity. I have a friend who will doing a lemonade stand for Autism Care and Treatment Today! to raise money for the important grants they give to families touched by Autism. Someone else may decide to donate time to the elderly. Someone else may decide to help a friend move. There is so much we can do, whether we have time or money to give, the list of possibilities to show compassion are endless.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I already think the autism community is a compassionate community. On this journey through autism I’ve met some of the kindest, most courageous people on earth. I would love for the whole world to know how compassionate our community is, and how deserving of compassion we are.
Do you have to be a member of the autism Community to participate in Compassion in Action? No! In fact we hope that everyone will participate. Autism is not contagious but we hope that compassion is!
Tell us how you or your group will participate in Compassion in Action for an opportunity to be featured on a live webcast of Autism Live. Tune in to the show to hear how others are finding ways to put Compassion in Action!