Friday, November 6, 2015

The Mission, The Race


The picture above may be of a real race, and I do mention "race" in the title of this post, but the sport of motorsports is not the topic of this post. However, I can use the event in the picture to illustrate a point as in the picture I am in the midst of starting a race (and making sure I get off the track by the time the field reaches me!) and in a way this represents my mission.

Many people can claim to have the best job in the world, but I'm sure I do as my job is my mission and it involves a race. This race doesn't involve air pressure, position changes, or apexes, but it does share one key aspect and that is the speed to which it is achieved. You see, with every presentation I give it is very much like the photo above for not just autism awareness but the understanding and understanding is the object of this race.

Without understanding, every aspect of awareness doesn't matter. I know awareness has gone up in just the five years I've been doing this, and that's great, but without the next layer it means nothing. If a person knows the word autism that didn't five years ago does that actually change anything? One can increase their vocabulary but unless they know what it means and how it impacts a person, and the world, the awareness component is a fruitless endeavor and that's why my mission is a race.

I don't want to boast about what I do as I, most of the time, take little pride in what I do. I do it simply because it needs to be done and whether I'm a great presenter or not means little to me; the matter at hand is delivering the information because right now in small towns, big towns, schools, or metropolises there are kids, teenagers, adults that are going through the levels of misunderstanding. I saw it just yesterday when I was presenting and when I mentioned that, "I used to be the least emotional person in the world and if you asked me anything subjective, or anything remotely close to be emotional I said three and only three words of 'I don't know'" and in the second row a grandson looked at his grandma and in a mixture of what appeared to be sadness, hope, and a realization of "that's me" he looked his grandma right in the eye, let out a minute smile, and nodded. The grandma looked back and gave the same response and nodded. At that moment, the green flag was out and the process of true understanding had begun.

There's much talk, and I love it when I get the chance to talk about the human potential within those on the autism spectrum but many times, due to bullying and misunderstandings that potential often times won't be realized and that potential for the betterment of all is squandered. It doesn't have to be this way and each day when I wake up I think about this race and the importance of it. To me, what I do isn't just a job, I do it because of the pain I know people experience. I've been there; my world just over six years ago was one where the word hope was never used. My vision of the world was that it was a cold, nasty place and I would never find my way. These thoughts were reinforced by the constant misunderstandings and right now these misunderstandings still happen out there and with every presentation I give, when I talk about the new race, I envision the picture above. However, instead of having a pack of racers zoom on by I see it as, what I hope, will be a new phase in each person's life whether they are a teacher and are better equipped to work with those on the autism spectrum, or a police officer who has to make split second choices and will be better equipped to give the support or protect a person on the autism spectrum, or the parent who never knew why their child acts the way they do, but most of all I think of all the students I've presented at school who are the future and the ones there that are on the autism spectrum and can see there is a life beyond the diagnosis. The diagnosis need not define the person, and after my presentation I can only hope that the way I see it as a race commencing and a new phase in life, even if it's just 1% better understanding is there. Things won't get magically better right away, but to keep the race metaphor going I'll say no race was ever won in the first corner, but unless one starts a race they can never finish it.

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