A Heart-Warming Story

I sit here this morning and my heart is full. I want to write something eloquently and yet it feels difficult to express what I want to say in words. This time of the year is always a time of reflection and what I always want to write most about is the child’s right to simply “be”. This is at the core of everything that I do and that I stand for.

In today’s society we are moving at an ever-increasing faster pace and the value placed upon creating “product” and being “productive” grows in importance. Of course, it is important, but somehow the thought was created that by focusing on “product”, we will gain productivity. The value of “process” is undermined by what we can see and the mind that creates the thought is not valued as much. We forget that in order to produce, we need creativity, thought process and logical thinking skill. We also need intrinsic drive to please ourselves, which in turn would create and grow the self-discipline we need in order to produce according to the time lines set as well as maintain focus on quality. Let me give you a story that warmed my heart last week.

I returned from New York to the office late one evening and Noel, one of our Occupational Therapy team, was still at the office. With a great deal of emotion and some tearful joy she related an occurrence to me. We serve a family with an older autistic boy for a number of years now. The dedication of this family to their son, like so many others, continues to amaze me strongly. Our OT and Speech Language Pathologist, together with his mother, took him to J. Crew to purchase clothing for himself. Over the years he has developed some deeper sense of self with capability of understanding emotion, and this past year he developed an important milestone of riding a bicycle independently.

The staff at J. Crew was incredibly understanding and a mature gentleman was assigned to support this young man. He immediately grasped the situation and addressed him personally each time. It also is the first time that he was going to wear jeans in 10 years and they set off to find what he would like. Choices were provided, respect and warmth were relayed and he had his first shopping experience in his life. He chose, he fitted, he struck poses and displayed his sense of humor by choosing the funkiest socks available in the store. The gentleman even bought him a gift at the end of his visit, a gesture that had everyone tearful. His mother was elated and her joy was a sight for everyone to enjoy. This experience clearly left an imprint on our OT’s mind and now mine as well.

As my eyes teared up at the telling of this story, I reflected on how much good came of this situation. The gentleman at the store created a moment, not simply because of an action, but because he cared and he could care because he had a mind that grasped the situation, a mind that could stand in our young man’s shoes and be empathetic and warm to our cause. His mother understood the value of experience and creating opportunity for her son to enjoy the things in life we all take for granted. Our therapists understood that function was not related to “being social”, but being “present”. It is our presence of mind that creates the product we need in order to be functional.

There is so much talk about “mindfulness” and “mindful” meditation, yet in many instances it has just become another “buzz word” of the day. I remember when this trend started, I was wondering why this was suddenly so important. Are we not supposed to be mindful already in terms of each other and the place we hold in society? Where are we going if one of the most basic human concepts shared in empathy and relationship is now a “trend”? Are we so fixed on outcomes that the process of “being” is taken out of the equation? What happened in this store was an act of human kindness, an act of understanding that today’s experience counted and that this young man could feel his power in effecting choices of his own. It would help if he could do the math, it would also help if he could write his own check, but what mattered on this day was that an experience was created that would support his sense of self, support his identity and create everlasting meaning for all that were in that store on this day.

During this Christmas Season let us celebrate our ability to experience each other, to truly experience the gift of giving and feel the thrill of being able to simply just “be”!

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