Last week I sat quietly tucked in a 100 acre wood of western Massachusetts with thirty something strangers. We came to a “retreat” away from the normal life we lived in Vietnam, Spain, Portugal, Poland, China, Jamaica, Iceland, Brazil, Bulgaria, Sweden, British Isles, and United States to find something to stuff in our pockets to take home.
I had never done anything like this before and came anxious and speculative. Of course we stared each other down that first breakfast in the cabin-like eating hall that smelled of brewed coffee and bacon, wondering who we would buddy up with. Many brought their own interpreters so people sat in small clusters in their “own whispers” of conversation. I bravely sat next to a woman from Vietnam and was relieved when she spoke English clearly enough for me to understand. We became friends that minute.
Then, the stories began.
Emotion, fear, exhaustion, tenderness, devotion, pride.. circled in and out of the groups as we shared our vulnerabilities as each day unfolded. The stories were different yet the same.
We all had come for someone we loved.
We were there to learn how to love them even more.
All week we were pushed to the depths of our fears. We were shaken into reality of how the world takes us away from being fully present. We dove deep inside and pulled out demons that self sabotage and keep us rigid and non accepting.
We learned how to love more deeply. We learned how to celebrate with sincerity. We learned how to connect because that is the most important thing of all. And we learned to accept challenges as blessings and not curses.
We came for autism. For our babies.
Their beautiful faces in photographs hung up on the wall in the common room for us to look at everyday. Everyday we cried. Everyday we rejoiced. Everyday we laughed. Everyday we were homesick for them.
We came to get a hand to hold. And now we hold each others hands around the world.
We came as strangers and left as family.
I will never be the same because I went…
(The “Son-rise” Program–
please pass it on to your friends who have autism in their life.
Love changes everything…)