In my work, I’m often considered to be a member of a “team.” My clients often have medical, mental health, or educational issues and at times I attend meetings on behalf of my clients to determine what patchwork of services will best assist him or her to become the best they can be under the sometimes heartbreaking circumstances in which they find themselves. For many of my clients, when they turn 18 or 21 and leave, are “kicked out,” or age out of the foster care/independent living “system,” their “team” disappears and they are alone. Utterly alone. If they are lucky, there is at least one other seasoned adult in each of their worlds who will help them navigate the waters of adulthood: love, marriage, education, career, even about practical things like how to make a collect call from a payphone.
Yesterday, I eased my lazy butt out of bed a few hours earlier than I usually do on a Saturday morning. After my usual morning ablations and attempting to make myself as unscary looking as possible (even if it is Halloween), I toddled downstairs, and John, my DH, and I drove to Baltimore for the annual Autism Speaks fundraising walk at M&T Bank Stadium. Soon we were joined by the organizers, our daughter Dori and son-in-law Donald and two of our grandangels, Madison and Ruby. Their friend, Meredith was also there to walk. Soon our the team “Madison’s Super Divas” was complete with the addition of Kristin, Sonny and baby Johnny. This grandma’s creaky joints and extremely stiff knee made it around one stadium, but the rest of the team did the circumferences of both M&T and Camden Yards. There were all sorts of vendors with informational brochures, stands where kids could play with musical instruments, sign up for dance lessons for kids with disabilities, paint faces and pumpkins, get a t-shirt, and the like. There was a band backed up with a nice assortment of recordings that played throughout. The hour before the walk began, we greeted each other, hugged, laughed, enjoyed the antics of the little guys and appreciated Madison’s new maturity. Everyone caught up. Meredith’s parents were on their way to the Rally to Restore Sanity (or to Keep Fear Alive, LOL) and as soon as we were done, she was headed for Washington to join them. (We later learned that the metro was PACKED with people that morning trying to get down to the Mall at the Smithsonian!) Kristin was feeling fine, with less than four months to go on her second pregnancy. Sonny was already chatting with other participants and had scored a t-shirt from their team (Note to self: get t-shirts for our team next year!). Donald was quiet, but his usual funny self. Of course Dori had organized the team and registered all of us. John and I came in our Autism Awareness baseball caps and were enjoying the grandkids. Johnny was cracking up at everything. Ruby was already humming B-I-N-G-O and the Farmer in the Dell (great pitch that kid has).
Finally, we were off. After the walk was over, we all piled into our respective cars and met up at the Trolley Stop in Ellicott City for lunch. It was a great day – and I think a good time was had by all. When we got home, John started painting the bathroom and I, devoid of all ambition, sat down and started knitting. and watching the televised Rally to Restore Sanity. Loved John Stewart’s Keynote speech:) Next thing I knew ,it was 6 PM and I had slept about 3 hours.
The rest of the day was somewhat uneventful, but something about the Walk yesterday really hit home for me. Both before and after the walk, there were group after group of people standing together – some in the same t-shirts, some in the same hats, some a motley group like ourselves, some with kids, some with generations from babies to elderly great grandparents. We all had one thing in common: each one of our family groups had at least one member with us who had been diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum. We were all giving our time and effort to help a cause, to be sure, but so much more than that, we were all showing our love. We were saying, “one of us has autism; therefore, our family has autism.” Each one of those groups represented to me the team that each one of their children had behind them in their lives. We were the teams for those children.
There is another moment that comes up fairly frequently in my everyday life very similar to this one. At baptisms and confirmations in my church, the entire family comes up to the altar. They surround the infant for whom others are speaking or the young person who is making his or her own personal affirmation of faith. These are the people who make up the core of support for each of these children. They will provide love, safety, advice, concern, prayers, consistency, discipline and joy. These are the ones who will love him or her as no one else will and sometimes when no one else will.
Many of my clients would have no one with them at the altar. Something is very broken in their families – but they still deserve a team – a team of people who will simply be present for them, to care about them and to help them to realize that they are important too. And infinitely precious.
There is a group of adults who try to do this on a regular basis. They are volunteers and they care. They work hard, one child at a time and often their work goes unrewarded. But many of us who work with and for children appreciate what they do. If you would like to join these saints of adulthood, consider giving your time as a CASA. CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” They are there to help the court determine the best interests of a child in child welfare cases, but they usually end up making a lifelong relationship with a child who needs to make their own team. CASA has a national organization, but they operate on a local level. If you go to their national website , you can locate an office near you.
Backing up a bit
When last I left you, dear 2.5 readers, I was getting ready to go to Austin, TX and as it turns out, I did. It was great attending the annual NACC (National Association of Counsel for Children) Conference at the Hilton. Of course, I stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn literally a block away and that was a lovely stay! It’s always a great thing to see what others are doing in their practices and what works. I learned a number of good things. It looks like the judiciary is really working to root out the biases they have – in a multi-cultural society like ours a very good thing.
The first evening, I decided to have dinner at a Champions restaurant – a local sports bar. But since the Yanks were playing Texas and doing OK at the time, I figured this New Yawka should take her supper outside. It was a lovely summer-like evening with a pleasant breeze and I got a great view of the people passing by and the city life. I ended up having a nice conversation with a young teacher who was here for another continuing education conference. We couldn’t have been more different in our philosophical and political outlook. Yet we did find areas of agreement and managed to have an interesting conversation without calling each other names. Amazing, isn’t it? Too bad our politicians and news pundits can’t do the same! Who knows? We may even end up friends on facebook:).
The first real day of the conference day was spent in break out sessions, learning how other jurisdictions handle the issues facing kids. The evening was spent knitting and watching the tube and going to bed early (I’m such an old lady!). As the first plenary/breakfast sesson began, I met up with a personable fellow from Kentucky who works for the local department of social services. He’s finishing his PhD, but still working as an attorney. He shared a lot about his life, his kids and his partner, which was unusual for such a short conversation, but it didn’t seem weird at all. Strangely enough, I don’t think I saw him for the rest of the conference! But I was happy to have met him.
On the last day of the conference, after finishing with the morning sessions and taking a little walk to the O.Henry museum (see picture), I did rent one of those little car thingies and visited a yarn shop not far from the hotel – Hill Country Weavers. I got some Auracania cotton yarn for a shawl I’m working on (Aeolian from Knitty.com) and took it with me to knit on the plane! Whoot! Excitement for the week:)! The flights there and back were uneventful – my favorite kind! In addition to the young Republican from Texas, and the attorney from Kentucky (and another one all the way from South Padre Island, TX), I met a really nice couple on the flight there who were flying home after a two-week stay in Pittsburgh.
But it was nice to get home and back to my usual routine. Bells, choir, EfM, work, family, sunday and knitting. When I got to the next choir practice, I found out I had been drafted in my absence to play flute for a couple of choir pieces! Yes:)! My flute playing must not have grossed Nancy out completely – I don’t care what reason, I’m just glad to be doing it. It’s been fun playing flute again, although I had to admit how rusty I’ve gotten. Oh well, it’s called practicing:) and I have been doing a bunch of that to the detriment of my poor family’s ears.
It seems like I am inundated with new projects:) Gee, don’t you hate when that happens?
Gotta go. God be with you ’til we meet again!