You see, the day before I had a brief conversation with a young woman that left me a little speechless, and drenched in the reality that there is still so much work to be done.
There is always work to be done, there will always be work to do...I know this. But as often is the case, the things we know in our head take time to find their way to our heart.
So I suppose, I hoped, that in the area of Autism awareness, we had made great progress in spreading knowledge. You know the knowledge of diversity, the knowledge of beauty in the smallest of accomplishments, the knowledge of what to say and of course what not to say.
I have said it before and I will say it again...
I am not easily offended. I know that quite often people speak in heartfelt well-intended ignorance.
Grace and mercy, people, grace and mercy. (great in theory, more difficult in practice)
I generally accept that many people grew up and lived in a time when the use of certain words and certain perceptions were the norm and it takes time and patience to make those changes that are ingrained so deeply in our minds.
But I truly thought that the younger generation, our children, I thought they knew. I thought they understood...
"How many children do you have?" she straightforwardly asked.
I smiled and replied, "five".
Eyes wide she asked "How old are they?"
I told her their ages and a little about each of them. I told her our oldest was married and lived in another state our youngest two were twins, our second oldest was in college and our middle child, the only boy, was autistic.
Eyes even wider she said, "Oh wow!"
She proceeded to tell me she had baby sat a little boy with autism so she knew how to interact with them. (my heart skipped a little beat)
"So...I mean how is he?" The question emerged through the fog of processing her "I know how to interact with them" statement.
My auto pilot explanation of my son's abilities flipped on and I explained as I usually do when people inquire. I was finishing up telling her about my son, and I'm not going to lie I am used to a fairly standard response, something along the lines of "that's really good that he loves computers".
What I got was...
"Oh that's good, so he's not stupid."
I stood there.
Who says that.
How did you and your ignorance slip through the cracks.
How can you not know how inappropriate that comment is.
I know places on the Internet where you would be ripped to shreds for those words.
I know a place right now where you may be ripped to shreds for those words.
Grace and mercy...
Grace and mercy.
Grace and mercy...
take a deep breath...
"No" I replied, "he's not stupid"
And she was gone.
There are still so many places and people, for as much as we huddle together on the Internet and write incredibly moving pieces about what to say or not say, that simply look at our children and their first thoughts consist of every one of those preconceived notions and words we long to eradicate.
We may have to move beyond our keyboards and screens and out into the word to fully make those changes happen. Because there is still much work to be done.
But hope arrives with the potential for change and acceptance that is found in each new soul born into the world.
So I continue to pray.
Heavenly Father...use my words, use my hands and my feet...use me. Open my eyes to those moments when I am needed for your plan, for your glory. Father help me to see, to move and to speak where I am needed. May Your grace and mercy flow through me so that others will see and understand the value and purpose of every life you have so carefully created for your plan. Amen.