I just returned to the office from my trip to the Park Hill School District. My article yesterday said that I was going to talk to teachers and I was only partially right. The majority of those in attendance were parents of those that are on the spectrum. This was fine by me as parents are the first line of defense.
Getting to the Park Hill Day School proved to be an adventure all within itself. I had to make my obligatory stop at a truck stop in Kingdom City to get some Red Bull Cola, and from then on I made no more stops. I arrived in the Kansas City metro area at 4:10 with 6:00 being what time I had to be there. Thank goodness I have a rule about being 90 minutes early when going to something important because I needed every one of those minutes!
Call me rigid, but streets should be logical. If a road has one name it should not change names while going in a straight line. Kansas City isn't as rigid as I am and I went around and around looking for Green Hills Rd. At one point in time I found it, only to find that it was only Green Hills Rd for one turn. Literally one turn; perhaps 100 feet.
I was told this road name change was new and that my Garmin wouldn't know where to go. Regardless of that I listened to my Garmin and went on road after winding road. I found a one lane bridge and a road closure, but I didn't find the road I needed. After an hour of winding about I looked at the printed directions and figured I needed to find route 152.
Once I found 152 I was set and quickly found the school. Much to my dismay I had essentially driven all around the school except for the only road that went to the school. Embarrassment aside it was time to go into alias mode.
The school served a small dinner before hand, but I usually don't eat before a presentation. A teacher that saw me speak at the MNEA conference last November was talking with me and introduced me to a couple families. One family had read my book and it was weird for me to know that they know my story. I guess I'm not exactly an "open book" but you can read about me in an actual book.
When 7:00 came it was time to give my presentation. I had my power point presentation ready to go and 35 people filed into the small library. With the somewhat tight quarters I was about off guard to begin with. I've grown accustomed to large rooms and it took me nearly a dozen minutes before I was comfortable. I don't think anyone noticed, but I felt a little uneasy.
Due to the uncomfortable start I was a bit off on my examples I give to back up my concepts. My power point presentation is normally 35-50 minutes, but last night I finished it in 23 minutes. As I ran out of slides I was in a internal panic because it was supposed to be 35-50 minutes. I had stated at the start of the presentation that there would be a Q&A session at the end, and I was hoping (almost praying) that people had questions. The hoping (and prayers) were answered.
What ensued was nothing short of magic. The questions came fast and furious and through my answers, and questions from the parents, the air got much lighter. The parents understood my concepts I flew through in the presentation and they tailored their questions to match my concepts.
I fielded questions about sensory issues, relationships, friendships, and at least 10 other issues that I can't recall right now, and everyone in the room was transfixed on the conversations. One of the students that attend the school asked a question, and perhaps it was the most meaningful one of all that anyone can relate to, "Have you ever had a friend that you thought was a friend, but they weren't really?"
During the questions there was laughter, a few tears, and a lot of information was shared. Time was flying by and at the end of the question there were three new hands up waiting to ask a new question. At 8:20, 1 hour after I began the Q&A, the school principal came in to conclude the evening, and rightfully so seeing how we were 35 minutes over.
As the principal thanked me the attendees all applauded and one parent stood up and said, what could be the most meaningful line in my life, "Above all else, Aaron, you have given us hope".
I struggle when people ask me how my presentations went. If people say, "thank you" I take that as them thanking me. People thank others all the time for the smallest of life's events so those type of comments mean nothing to me. This comment though; this comment of "hope" froze me. I can't diminish the meaning of that line. There is no way to misconstrue that word. I am horrible when trying to judge if people enjoyed a presentation, or were bored. I knew exactly what they took from my presentation from that one line.
I am thankful I am able to bring hope to people. I'll be honest and say that I don't quite understand why I do, but I am certainly happy I can. What I am really thankful for is his line of bringing them hope in turn brought about a hope I have never felt before.
My writings were born from a deep depression I was in. I hated everything and was very bitter. I always wondered why everything was the way it was. In other words I had the "why me?" syndrome. Now though, through this parents single sentence of hope, all the nights of worry, all the anxiety, all the rage, and all the sorrow was worth it.
I am now feeling a sense of retroactive hope. My experience, as rough as it once was, was worth it. My passion has grown by a unmeasurable margin as I now know I have an effect on people. I always thought each presentation was a fluke, but now I'm beginning to see that it isn't.
So what does this all mean? It means that I am hopeful that I will be able to raise awareness, and hope to one classroom, town, city, and county at a time. For this, I am hopeful.