I wonder sometimes if life makes sense, or if I make it make sense because I need it to.
For all of the big experiences I’ve had, even for all of the painful experiences I’ve had, I often catch myself winding meaning around what does or doesn’t happen. Not in a parable way, but in ways that maybe make me view them with, if not exactly clarity, then at least calm. I’m looking for reassurance that I’m not alone I guess, that there is a why to the what. That I’m not just holding on by my toenails to this hurtling blue ball we’re on.
Today’s topic is kindness. Last year I was focused on someone being nice to and attempting to connect with my son. I had been (and still am) so touched by the outstretched hand and heart of a man we’d never seen before and haven’t since. I don’t even have to go back and look at the entry — I remember it well. We’d been in the pool at our building in NYC — an indoor pool that, of course, is echo-y and that intensifies the sound and volume of John Henry’s vocalizing — which got on a lot of swimmers’ nerves. And I understood that. Nevertheless, we had the right to swim too and so we did. I tried to talk to him about keeping his voice down, and he tried so hard to do it when he could, but he couldn’t always do it, excited as he was. The man who I wrote about, insteading of shooting us dirty looks and talking to the lifeguard about us or asking me why he had to make that sound (like some people did), made eye contact with him, smiled, and made the same sounds John Henry did and it was one of the kindest things I’ve ever seen anyone do. He said, “He’s just fine. He’s beautiful.” I don’t know if the man had a background in therapy or if he had experience with autism in some way, but that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Join them where they are. My heart about burst that day.
We’ve had some rough times in New York City. I’ve not been shy about saying how hard the sensory onslaught of day to day life here has been, or about how we don’t have a yard to run and play in, or about how dangerous it has felt to me on certain days. It isn’t an ideal environment, in my opinion, for a young boy who needs lots of space to move and shout but needs that space to also be safe because he is likely to run off at any moment. We’ve been stared down and complained about and things have gotten scary as hell sometimes (for instance, John Henry jerked away from me and tried to run in the middle of 9th Avenue one day — luckily I’m still fast enough to deal with things like that), but as with most things, we got through it because we had grace to help us through. And that grace has come through people. I will miss the staff of our building, who have watched over us like protective big brothers and who all know and love John Henry. I told them all at one time or another that if they saw him without an adult that something was wrong and to catch him and come upstairs immediately because I had likely hit my head and passed out or worse. I will miss John Henry’s teachers this summer as he experiences that space I’ve dreamt and talked about him having. They are doing God’s work and are patient beyond belief. All kinds of folks have been kind to us, and I am grateful.
I couldn’t help but think about that kindness when I snapped this photograph of John Henry giving a kiss to a lady he’d never met before at his baseball game last Saturday. And I couldn’t help but think about how it is contagious, how it’s something we have to and do teach, and how we simply can’t do without it in this world. It saves us. That’s a meaning I’m proud to admit I attach to whatever I can. I’m grateful to find cause to every single day.
Happy Wednesday and peace and love, y’all.