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A boy named Adam

on May 17, 2011

When I was a little girl, I was very tall. In fact, when I got to 4th grade, I was taller than almost every kids on my elementary school campus. There was only one kid taller than me, and his name was Adam.

While I personally strove to fit it and be accepted (successfully), Adam was considered “weird.” He wasn’t much aware of personal space, and was always saying funny things. Suffice it to say, he did NOT fit in, and people who associated with him were in damger of being somehow socially “tainted.”

I didn’t think that was fair, even when I was 9 years old. My upbringing had taught me love and acceptance, and to embrace ALL people, regardless of race, disability, etc. And so I became Adam’s friend. Now that I think of it, I might have been his only friend.

Let me take a step back and say that there are times I was with my other friends when I am sorry to say I pushed him away; I wouldn’t eat lunch with him or play with him every recess. But I did talk to him and defended him when other kids were being mean.

Looking back, I think Adam was a highly-functioning autistic kiddo…the in-your-face kind, sorta the same way my son is (some autistic kids are very withdrawn, and others have no concept of socially acceptable behaviors). He always asked everyone strange questions with a goofy smile on his face, and was somewhat oblivious to their sarcastic or non-existent answers. He always wanted to get into your personal space and that made kids uncomfortable. And when kids see someone “different,” they unfortunately think of them as somehow disabled (I regret to say the word, but it was thought of as “retarded” back in the day). We had a “Special Ed” class on campus, but he didn’t fit there; I think he was too intelligent for what the school believed to be “Special Needs” back then.

I don’t have a lot of memories of that time during my life, but I do specifically remember one day that Adam’s single mother came to school and met me. Maybe it was an Open House or maybe he was having a hard day at school or something. But I remember someone calling out to me from behind, and when I turned around, I saw them. I stopped as they walked toward me, and I smiled uncertainly.

Adam beamed as he introduced me as his “friend” to his Mama. I shook her hand and she smiled just as big, and I remember her very simple words to me. All she said, with tears in her eyes, was “Thank you. Thank you so much.” I just smiled back, not really knowing what to say.

After 5th grade, I lost track of Adam. He didn’t follow on with our class when we moved into our Middle School. Maybe he just went to a different school, maybe he found a better place to meet his special needs.

But I have to tell you, there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to go back and be a better friend to that boy I knew in 4th and 5th grade – the only other kid in school who was taller than me, the only kid who never got discouraged by the nasty insults and the unkind way he was treated. If I could, I would go back and sit with Adam at lunchtime, and invite him to join us in our play at recess, even if it meant the loss of my established popularity, even if it meant being socially outcast.

I am glad I could make a small difference in Adam’s life…I am so proud that God gave me a heart which provided Adam some small happiness in a school that ridiculed him constantly. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I should’ve done more.

It is my strong hope and my greatest desire that some child or children might do the same for my son as he gets older. We don’t know how severely the Autism will take root as Alex gets older and we learn how to work with him better, but I will get down on my knees and pray to God for friends for my little boy, the way I am sure Adam’s Mama did when he was in school.

I hope Adam grew up and found beautiful friends & family who love him no matter where he is at in his journey. I hope someone will do a better job than I did when I was so young and didn’t know any better. I hope my own son’s companions are loving and caring and loyal.

And as parents, maybe we can do a small part by teaching our kids that “different” isn’t weird or bad or contagious…it’s just different. And being different is okay.

❤ Kristi


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