I acknowledge I’m one of the first in line in slagging young people for not pulling their heads out of the sand of their own self interests; and for not realizing there are more people around than just themselves.
In order for our communities to remain healthy, the individuals living in them must acquire the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I penned this story as a reminder to myself, not to paint all young people with the same lack of empathy brush.
A five year old goes to his mom with a flat beach ball saying, “Mommy fix?” The mom pauses her conversation with a friend to respond, “I’m sorry son, the ball is broken and can’t be fixed.”
With trembling lips and hand holding the ball remains, he repeats, “Mommy fix?”
The mom explains that her son has autism. One of his difficulties is not being able to express emotions. She confesses he rarely cries, but has little problem getting angry.
Autism is a mental condition characterized by having difficulties in communicating, using language, forming relationships with other people, and understanding abstract concepts.
Discovering the concept of loss through a broken ball was going to be a big boy journey for him. It wasn’t just a broken ball to the little boy. It was a loss that he was unable to express.
The ball was a focal point of this young life. He would sit on the ball and gently bounce, then wander off to do other things, but come back to the ball for a gentle bounce. The five year old boy relied on the ball for comfort like a baby does for a soother, or a toddler and their blanket. It is their anchor of calm in a sea of unknown discoveries. Without it they would drift with the tides having no calm port.
Unknown to the mom, the young lady she was talking to witnessed the scene and felt moved to help. Her newly minted degree in Education and experience in providing respite for families with children who have autism gave her more insight than others. She made some phone calls and put a plan in motion.
Later that evening the young lady and her fiance attended the home of the little boy with two blue beach balls. The boy took a ball and started his gentle bounce.
The child’s parents made a social media post to thank them for their kindness. Their display of empathy and their desire to restore a loss is what our communities need.
This article was originally printed in the May 12, 2014 Lance Community newspaper.