Monday, March 8, 2010

An International Event

I lived out a dream two weeks ago when I got the chance to go to the Olympics in Vancouver. What started out as a question in jestwhen I asked a friend over Xbox Live if he'd give his spare ticket to me, turned out to be an event that may define the next part of my life.

By no means did I have the $1,600 the airlines were asking for a flight to Vancouver during the Olympics, but I did have 25,000 frequent flier miles so the ticket was free. Everything worked out perfectly to get me there. Now I state this not for the fact that I had a great time (I did) but because as wonderful as the event was, and as amazing as the pictures I took were

(amazing, right? I took that photo!) those events are better suited for my book. What was truly amazing wasn't any of those events, but what happened at a Rotary club meeting.

I stayed with my friend who still lives at home and the day after the only event I attended his dad asked me if I'd be interested in speaking at their weekly meeting. An Olympian was scheduled, but she had to cancel for one reason or another. I instantly said yes not knowing what a Rotary club was, or how long I'd have to speak.

When it came time to go to the meeting I was elated as, being the speaker, my lunch would be free. Hey, it's the small things in life that keep us going. Anyways, I still didn't really know what the Rotary club was except that this club is the Arbutus club and that there are more than 32,000 clubs worldwide.

During lunch, the table I was at asked me a few questions about where I was from and I was able to respond, but not in as much detail as I would've liked. The number of people was way down, according to what they told me, due to the Olympics. That was okay as this was my first presentation without power point in a long time (I hate going to a power point presentation, but giving a presentation without one is rather difficult).

I had from 1:05 to 1:30 to speak and I was advised not to go over my time and it'd be okay if I finished at 1:25 as the attendees usually have meetings at their respective businesses afterwards.

With only 25 minutes, and no power point to go off of, my first five minutes would be the most important. To begin I started with my story of being diagnosed and from then on I can't remember what I covered exactly. I do remember that the members who were there were listening as when I covered a point heads nodded, and when I told them of some of my "classic Asperger moments" there was laughter. What's a classic moment? I used the story of when my former girl friend wore this outfit and I looked at her, pointed, and asked, "What is that?" Later I asked, "What planet is that from?" Oops!

Anytime I present I don't know how I'm going to be received. Well, I guess anytime I'm anywhere I won't know even after the fact. I thought it went well though because I had 10 minutes of questions afterwards and it was 1:35 when the meeting was concluded. Afterwards a couple people continued to talk with me and I was just glad chairs or unconsumed food wasn't hurled my way (don't you just love my catastrophic thinking?). I don't think this group, as a whole, had much first hand experience with someone that is on the spectrum. I think most people now know the word autism, but don't know much when it comes to what it is and what it feels like.

I don't have any intention of having this blog be triumph story after triumph story. This story though has an amazing ending as a couple days ago I was informed that this chapter of the Rotary Club is strongly considering making autism a priority in there donations! I only had a half hour and the group wasn't that big, but I made an impact. I was oblivious to this while I was there, naturally, but the impact I made was great.

People train all their lives for the Olympics for the chance to win a bronze, silver, or preferably a gold medal. While I may not be an athlete, and have not trained for anything, my Olympic experience turned out to be much better than winning a medal as I, in that room on a damp Vancouver day, let people who knew nothing about autism feel what autism is like. While the athletes that soared through the air wowed spectators and television viewers the world over with their gravity defying moves (curling excluded) I simply helped a room with about a dozen people in it better understand autism. I may not have had the fanfare, a medal, or my anthem played, but hearing that they may support autism efforts is by far better than any material item anyone could offer.

1 comment:

  1. Aaron, what a great experience for you!
    I am amazed that you would just say "yes" so easily. You are very brave!