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Hope comes in small packages

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day around here. Up early as the dog and cat raced across my face at 6:30am. No rest for the weary in this house. First on the list was the Festival of the Young Child—think a thousand birthday parties rolled into one—think a thousand wild and crazy toddlers and preschoolers—think lots of Advil. Seriously though, Festival of the Young Child is a great chance to meet other people, find resources, and think about the bigger picture of what it means to build a community—one that is inclusive of all types of children with all types of needs and all types of abilities.

I met families I’d never laid eyes on before who are raising children with autism. I met children with autism that I never knew existed. I met a young man with Asperger’s whose first words were, “I have autism!” Autism is not rare. Autism is everywhere, if you open your eyes to see it. Autism creates friends where there were none. Autism creates hope where none existed. Autism strengthens our communities where they had been splitting at the seams before.

Last night my husband pulled together a music fest to raise money for my Adventure Club idea. Despite two deaths and a deadline of only three weeks, my husband pulled it off—maybe with a few more gray hairs, but he pulled it off. In that little bar, a wider community of acceptance and understanding was created. In all the conversations I had about autism last night each one led back to the same theme: we have more in common with autistic individuals than differences. Every person had a story about someone they knew, someone the loved, someone they met, someone they hoped to meet. Every person had a connection to autism in some small way. Even being there last night and supporting the very idea of it was enough to strengthen and build a world I want my son to be in.

It’s not often that we get to do great things with our lives, our actions, and our thoughts. Last night, I saw many people doing great things just by being there. Just by walking in the door. Most people there had no idea what kind of an impact they were having on the life of a person with autism—they merely came to enjoy the music or the night out. Most people had no idea what it meant to the parents who were there. Most people there had no idea how one small ripple can create such monumental change.

Last night, people were changing lives without even knowing it.

It’s not always the great things that I look for in my fellow community members, friends, and families that I know. I’m looking for hope in small packages. And last night I found plenty of that. I can never thank my husband enough for jumping through hoops to make last night possible. I’ll never be able to thank Lucas Thomas, Kylie Knoop, Mike Knoop, David Thill, Sarah Jean Bresnahan, Jason Ward, Tammie McElwee, Brent and Angela Byrd, Dwight Walters, Scott Choplinski, Paul Heckel, Ryan Morrison, and the entire Staff Blues Band enough for everything they did to support AutJam. I’ll never be able to thank all those that came out for great music and an even greater cause. Just know that what you do in the few, small hours and deeds of your life create change where there was once stagnation, create possibility where there was once impossibility, and create a better world for all people with autism.