Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Sense of Community

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.” ~ C.S. Lewis


Today is a momentous day.  An exciting day.  An eventful day, to say the least.  It is a day in which we will crack out the iPad and the headphones and the weighted toys and the compression garments because it is that important that all of us – my boy included – be present for it all. 

It is the day of our local Walk Now for Autism Speaks and this is the first year in which our family will participate.

This time last year, Jack had been diagnosed with autism nearly two months prior but our feelings were still so raw from the impact of it all that we simply could not bring ourselves to do it.  This was not a place in which we felt comfortable.

This year, however, we are there and we are going to rock that walk.

When I think about gatherings such as the walk, one word comes to mind – community.  Look around you at your local walk, or support group meeting.  No one sits alone.  We all stand united for our children.  Our community, indeed the special needs community as a whole, has an unparalleled ability to rally around one another to provide hope, support, and understanding.

Think about it.  We all have our friends outside of the special needs community, but who else just gets it?  It seems like you only need to be in the room with another special needs mama for a few minutes before you can commiserate with her on your shared triumphs, failures, frustrations, and strategies. 

Our kids all have different combinations of diagnoses, abilities, and deficits, but we all find camaraderie among others who have been there.  We all have a fierce love for our children and we all are prepared to fight for every minute of every day to help our kids.  We’re all eager to share what resources we have for the good of everyone.  It’s not just about my kid; it’s about your kid, too.

Yes, we all need those friends outside of the special needs community who force us, sometimes against our will, to break away from the constant marathon of raising our children and go out to do something as frivolous as drink a whole bottle of cheap wine and watch one of the Twilight movies.  However, it is those times when I get out with my fellow special needs mamas, when we splurge on a nice dinner and drinks and we talk endlessly about our children, that I truly feel at ease.  These are my people.  They understand me!  They’ve been there!  They know what this feels like!

While we would never wish the struggles of our child upon anyone else, it is a relief and comfort to have other mamas out there who have walked a mile in our shoes.  Having a child with special needs may put barriers and obstacles before us, but it breaks down the barriers we place between each other. 

It's this wonderful community in which we find ourselves seeking shelter during our best and worst moments.

I challenge each of you today to pay it both forward and back.  Reach out to one of the angels in your life who stands by you and give them your thanks.  Let them know just how much you appreciate their support.  Then, turn your attention outward and welcome another mama into the fold.  Extend an empathetic ear and be there for someone else.  Let us continue to strengthen this community from the inside out.

As I step out on to that green this morning, I’ll find the mom whom I go have dinner with and give her a hug.  I’ll chat with the mom from my support group.  I’ll say hi and speak with a therapist or two.  Or a teacher.  Or another parent whom I’ve met in passing.  I will appreciate the impact that each of these individuals has on my day-to-day existence and that of my baby boy.  I’ll greet and walk along side these many souls who walk this walk with me, not just today but everyday.

I’ll step on to that green and feel a warm glow, because this is a place in which I feel comfortable. 

Among this community, I find my home.

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Jeanie is a former engineer turned stay-at-home wife and mom to an amazing 3-year old little boy on the autism spectrum.  After her only child was diagnosed at 24-months with autism and an alphabet soup of special needs, she began to write about life parenting a very young child with special needs with honesty, optimism, and as always, a touch of humor.

When not posting here, you can find Jeanie at her regular blog, Reinventing Mommy.  To follow more of her ramblings, like her on Facebook!