Back in 2019, when we built the house next door for Raimee, I went to Lowes to purchase appliances for the kitchen and ended up having a long conversation with the sales associate. I explained to him that we were building a home for our adult son, who has autism, and I was very particular about safety features. The man, who was very kind, put his hand on my arm and said “Your son has autism? I’m so sorry.”
This is certainly not the first time I have heard that sentiment, and I am sure it will not be the last. But it lights a fire inside of me every time I hear it.
Yes, Raimee's life has some additional challenges that are related to his diagnosis of autism; and the reality for Raimee is that he will (most likely) never be able to move through this world without relying on others for support, and that is really, really hard. I am so aware of how much I take for granted in my own adult experience because I see how compromised Raimee’s ability to be fully autonomous is as a result of his need to be dependent on others in order to stay safe. Which is partly what makes my next acknowledgement so astounding.
Raimee is, without a doubt, the happiest human I know.
He is seldom without a smile and a positive thing to say. He punctuates the days’ work with comments such as “Hey Mom, isn't it a beautiful day?” (even on days that are gray and cold), he embraces every activity with enthusiasm, and deeply values his time with his friends. He is not jaded by the politics of our time, is not burdened by worry about the pandemic and all of its health, cultural, and social implications. He is not weighted down with pretension or worried about what others might think if he breaks out in song in the middle of the grocery store. He is not afraid to compliment a stranger, and in fact, is always looking for a way to do so (which sometimes draws interesting looks as “I like your baldness” is not a compliment we often hear). He is never embarrassed by receiving or giving affection, does not understand the concept of stage fright, has never spread rumors, cheated someone out of money, or made judgements about others based on their gender, race, ability, or socioeconomic status. He is not afraid to be silly or wrong in front of others, and if he needs help, he is not too proud to ask for it.
He always dances like no one is watching, and marches, unapologetically, to the beat of his own drum. If his feelings are hurt by the stares or unkind comments of others, he seldom shows offense, never retaliates, and is quick to forgive. These are just a few of the very precious gifts that I have come to know and value about Raimee’s path on the autism spectrum. And what is so incredible about these gifts is the way they bless and transform everyone who has the opportunity to know Raimee.
I went back to Lowes later that same day to thank the sales associate who had assisted me, and I invited Raimee to come along. We brought the man flowers, and Raimee did a jig around the appliance department because, hey, new appliances are exciting. The man watched Raimee for a bit, and as he walked away he told me he would keep us in his prayers.
That’s fine. We need all the prayers we can get. But you can save the apologies for someone else.
At Blawesome, our desire is to change harmful stereotypes about what it means to live and work with a disability. We use the power of nature, connection, and service to invite our community in to engage in a celebration of the deep and profound meaning that exists in the spaces we co-occupy with folks who are differently-abled and neurodiverse. We are so excited to announce that we are offering more ways for local friends to be a part of the Blawesome experience in 2022.
Thank you, as always, for being a part of our journey. For loving us, supporting us, and (for those of you who pray) for praying for us; but most especially, for raising the bar on kindness and acceptance and never making us feel as though our experience with autism is something to be sorry about.
We celebrate you, too.
With all kinds of love and gratitude,
Rebecca, Raimee, and the Blawesome Family