Raimee was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old.
I remember driving home with Keith from the hospital that afternoon, wrapped in absolute silence, feeling a weight and solemnity that I cannot even begin to describe. After reviewing the diagnostic criteria with us, the doctor at Johns Hopkins gave us a book called The Autistic Child and an apology; and told us to not have high expectations.
We didn’t take his advice.
It was 1998, and there were very few resources pertaining to autism. The years that followed were full of hard work, every possible emotion, and extraordinary transformation. It was amazing to watch Raimee acquire the tools he needed to communicate with the people in his world. He began to use expressive language to ask for information and share his feelings and desires. It was the greatest gift to be able to watch our son settle into a space of peace and contentment because he was now the proud owner and operator of an internal system that could connect and make sense of his external environment. But, despite the fact that Raimee was growing in knowledge and skill development, he was lonely and struggled to make friends.
It was around the time that Raimee turned 14 that Keith and I heard of a group in Durham called Reality Ministries. I am forever grateful to whatever force it was in the Universe that prompted us to take Raimee to a gathering at the Reality Center in the spring of 2013. We have since been on a path that has been life changing in the most beautiful and extraordinary ways possible.
Reality Ministries is rooted in the all-inclusive love of Jesus and the belovedness of every person. The RM community includes all sorts of differences: ability, race, ethnicity, faith, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, theological perspective, socioeconomic status, citizenship, and language. They are committed to fostering a community of respect and standing against all forms of discrimination and seek to be a community of welcome where inherent dignity is affirmed, diverse gifts are celebrated, and the sacredness of every person is valued.
And they mean it.
Raimee has found himself surrounded by friends of all abilities, from all walks of life, engaging in authentic community and shared experiences in the most creative, inspiring, intentional and magical ways. In the years since Raimee walked through Reality Ministries’ doors, he has danced, laughed, prayed, worked, camped, played games, practiced yoga, told stories, broken bread, and sang songs. And one of the most memorable nights of the year is when the Reality Ministries family comes together to put on the greatest talent show that ever existed. Truly, it is a night where everyone’s gifts and abilities are showcased and celebrated. There is nothing else like it; and whether you are religious or not, you cannot leave that experience without feeling as though you have witnessed something divine.
(Follow this link to watch a clip of Raimee in the 2017 Talent Show https://youtu.be/6dAN4rRX4Dw)
Reality Ministries is one of the best things to ever happen to our family. It has offered space and opportunity for Raimee and so, so many others, with and without disabilities, to come together and be transformed by the power of true friendship. It is a manifestation of the joy, beauty, acknowledgement, visibility, belonging, and hope that blossoms when connections are rooted in love. And we are so honored to have the opportunity to partner with them this April, for Global Autism Awareness Month, to shine a light on our friends and family members living with autism.
From now until April 20th, you can order a beautiful bouquet of Blawesome flowers and show your support of Reality Ministries and the incredible work they do to create inclusive communities in the Triangle. Follow this link to place your order for an Autism Awareness bouquet https://reality-ministries.snwbll.com/.../blawesome...
Thank you for being in our life and walking on this path beside us.