We are a society of people who do not give "unnecessary" thanks. We don't go out of our way to praise people for doing the "right thing". And it doesn't matter why they're doing the right thing, whether it's their job, or penance, or the kindness of their hearts, it should be recognized. In general, we don't thank people enough. I don't thank people enough; I get too caught trying to endure the stresses of the present to remember to be thankful for the past blessings that kept me going along the way. November is a great time to hit the reset button in that regard. This month, as we start gearing up for the Thanksgiving coup de gras of gratitude (and gluttony), we should pause and identify (even if it's only in the privacy of our own skulls) the things that make us feel grateful. I'm grateful for the people along the way who "get it". If you're in the special needs community, as a member or caregiver of a member, you know what I mean. Some people get it. Those people at the supermarket who give you a smile and a nod instead of sidelong glance? They get it. That man who strikes up a conversation with you in the waiting room as you're reading a book about Autism (even though you really want to just finish the damn chapter and be left the hell alone, not that I'm saying that totally happened to me)? He gets it. That member of your family who unexpectedly says, "Take the night off, we want to babysit the kids," gets it too. As a card carrying member of the "I don't get it" society for much longer than I've been a member of this newer, more empathetic, less judgmental group, I appreciate the hell out of someone who gets it. Almost invariably that person has trampled down the grass on the deer path of life that you're now stumbling over (I don't know...it's deer season, right? I told you, I'm no good with metaphors). That person has tolerated the same irritated sidelong glances, answered the same well-meaning, but often soooo inappropriate questions; that person is..."Aware". I have been shooed out of church, I've been asked to leave a child's talent show, and I've felt the heat of judgmental stares and heard the muttered whispers, but as I exercise some mental muscle to push those memories out I find myself also recalling the woman at church patiently picking Cheez-its out of her hair and turning to give my daughter a smile and making small talk with her. I remember too how my family arranges itself around the accommodations we make (family in front so they can take the swats/slaps/potential food projectiles, mommy and daddy to either side, sitting on the aisle for prompt trips to the potty) to give ourselves the best chance at a fun family trip to the movies, and how strangers have shrugged off attempted apologies and offered instead good-natured smiles and assurances. Awareness comes at a price, I think. I don't believe you can beat the "awareness drum" and have people dance to your rhythm unless they've heard the tune before. We see the ribbons and hear the slogans, but the push for "awareness" comes from too many angles all at once. There are simply too many important things lobbying for our awareness for us to develop any sort of meaningful understanding of them all. I remember when I didn't know what this path looked like. I remember when I didn't get it. And maybe that's why I'm not usually upset by the off-putting questions. How can they be expected to get it? They haven't walked this path. This past week my daughter pulled the fire alarm at school. At first I laughed before realizing that this might be a big deal to the school. Surely they get it? But I remembered when I was in grade school one of my classmates had pulled the alarm and gotten suspended. The teacher called my wife laughing, "At some point all my students have pulled it," she said. They get it. And if you're reading this, you probably get it too. Thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for giving smiles instead of sneers. Thank you for withholding judgement and giving the benefit of the doubt, not just to my child, but to every child you ever came across who reminded you of a younger version of yourself, or of the son or daughter you already raised or are raising.
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