December 22, 2017

the boy in the green shirt

Some people fear special needs. Or think that a disability is something that needs to be fixed and healed.

But if it wasn't for autism, would I have met the boy in the green shirt? If it wasn't for the challenges of autism, would we have known of his pure kindness and love? Without autism, would I feel these emotions as deeply? Would I truly see the goodness around me?

Eric and I decided Perry is ready to start taking gymnastics classes once a week. We tried out a couple of different gyms in order to find the best fit. The first class he tried was filled with boys ages 7-11, including the boy in the green shirt.

His shirt was a neon green and it caught my eye for a quick second. But other than that he was just another kid out on that mat. And my eyes and attention were on my little Perry, anyways.

I sat on the bench up high observing the class with the other parents. As his mother, I was feeling all of the feels watching my little guy participate in a class of typical peers. I'm not even sure how to describe to you how deep my emotions run when it comes to our Perry. I choked back tears to see him trying so hard to stretch his legs like the coach was showing them. He looked like just another boy in a gymnastics class.

Only I knew how hard it was for him to focus and to get his body to do what the coach was asking. I knew the struggle of getting him dressed in order to even show up at the class. I knew the prep it took to calm his anxiety enough to join the class. I knew how much more work it was for him to be out there compared to most of his peers. And he was out there trying so hard--and doing it!

I wanted to cheer, yet a piece of my heart still felt heavy. I smiled to myself, yet I felt some sadness. I was proud, yet I ached. All of the deep feels I can't even put a name, too. It's complicated when your child has special needs.

This class was long. 90 minutes long. I couldn't hear anything, but I could see the struggle and the exhaustion building as they went from place to place in the gym.

At the end of the class, I met Perry by the cubbies. He was quiet, but seemed in good spirits. When I asked the coach how he thought it went, he gave a brief positive report. 

Perry sat on the bench and I knelt on the ground helping him to get his shoes on and trying to get him to tell me what he thought.

That's when the boy in the green shirt approached us. He couldn't have been older than 9 years old. He walked up to Perry, touched his arm, and told him "Hey man, don't let that kid get into your head! You did a great job. Just don't listen to him."

To be honest, this friendly little kid caught me off guard. I didn't know anything negative had happened! I stayed cool and told him thanks and asked what had went on. He told me another kid thought Perry was cutting and then when Perry was whining about some of the things they were asked to do the other kid told Perry he wasn't going to put up with him anymore and just wasn't nice. Perry chimed in then about how that other kid was mean. The boy in the green shirt reiterated to Perry, "Don't let that kid get in your head! You're good, man." Then he walked off.

When we got outside to our car, we saw the boy in the green shirt sitting there waiting for his ride. When we walked by he called out a sincere, friendly goodbye and told Perry he would see him next week in class.

That's when I knew without a doubt that this boy in the green shirt was the best of the best. This boy was all goodness and kindness. He was a comforter, an encourager, and a defender. He was pure. He was a friend. He was brave. He did the right thing on his very own. And he probably didn't even realize how much his kindness to Perry meant to both of us. With kids in the car I couldn't wait any longer, but I wanted to stay and tell his mom how proud she should be of her son and how inspiring he was to me.

I am so grateful for this boy in the green shirt. He was a reminder that there are so many good people in the world. And good people come in all different shapes and sizes. You see, autism gives me the chance to see the good around me. How grateful I am for that.