Monday, October 1, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers (an open letter to a woman named Ann)

Dear Ann,

We met on Saturday afternoon at the library. We were there for the puppet show workshop. You saw me with my six year old son.

You saw how my son threw himself on the floor, fingers jammed in his ears. You saw him crying. Struggling to get out of my grasp. You heard him spitting out words. To you, they probably didn't make any sense. 

And then there was me. You saw how tired I looked. You saw me struggling with my sixty pound son. You saw me trying to pick my son up off the floor with my bag in hand and our coats tucked under my arm.  You saw how how finally let it all drop on the floor and whispered in my son's ear trying to talk to him and get him out of the room. Maybe you sensed how helpless and overwhelmed I was. Maybe even saw the defeat in my eyes, how I was silently berating myself for not being better prepared to cope with a public meltdown.

You saw all of this without judgement. Without rolling your eyes or shaking your head. Without thinking that my son was being a brat. You saw all of this and simply asked, "How can I help you?"

Thank you for those five words I so seldom hear. Thank you for trying to understand and for looking beyond the behaviors others might find unacceptable.

I declined your help.* But please know I was so incredibly grateful for the offer. Please know how moved I was by your sincerity. Please know how thankful I was for your kindness.  

And if you see another parent struggling with their child - I do hope you make the offer again. They may deny it but the offer itself will mean so much to them.  


* I declined Ann's help but had I accepted her offer she could have helped with my bags and coats by either putting them someplace where they were off the floor and/or out of the way. Ann could carried my bag and coat downstairs. She could have gone downstairs to get us a few books or a cup of water. I should have taken Ann's help. Because there are moments when I simply cannot do it alone. And there is nothing wrong with accepting help. If there is ever an instance when a stranger offers to assist me again, I will take it.

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.