Last Wednesday, we hosted our sixth annual luncheon. Every year, this event is highly anticipated by community members, staff and organization supporters from near and far. It is not just the delicious lunch that brings nearly 400 people to this event every spring. The stories and heartfelt testimonies, shared by parents, children and friends of autism are what bring this community of people together. And for one cause…autism.
When devoted parents Eric and Marian Congdon fearlessly faced last week’s crowd, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. In their speech, they paint a picture of what raising a child on the autism spectrum looks like. Their story, like their joyful daughter, is beautiful, candid and honest. This week, we are sharing their story with you. We hope it touches you as much as it did us.
“Today is about sharing. Sharing our stories, our talents, and our resources. It can be hard to share a story about living with autism. You build up a toughness, a thick skin without even realizing it. And when you're asked to share your story, all those hurts and confusions and disappointments burst forth and try to overtake you. But, it's good to share.
And we have a little more to share...
When you have a child, before they're born and just after, You're excited about their prospects, and ready for the challenge of parenting.
You imagine camping trips, spelunking in caves, showing them your old haunts, favorite places, sharing favorite traditions, celebrations with grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.
You imagine birthday parties, sleepovers, best friends, hurt feelings--heart to heart conversations. You imagine sweet moments comforting them after a bad dream or a disappointment. You imagine sisters sharing clothes, fighting over boys, keeping secrets from you.
You imagine her future. How will you help her surpass what you've achieved? What accomplishments will she have--will she be athletic? Valedictorian? Where will she go to college? Where will she travel, live, what kind of job will she have? How extraordinary will she be? You imagine all the possibilities.
When autism hits the family you stop imagining and simply start hoping for day to day normalcy. You hope to get through grocery shopping without a scream so loud everyone in the store stops to stare. You hope for words, any words. You hope to sit through church or a movie without annoying others and having to leave. You hope for an invitation to a birthday party or for someone to want to sit by her. You hope they don't stare. You hope she's not lonely. You hope her teachers feel she's worth teaching. You hope her brother and sisters aren't embarrassed. You hope one of them will take care of her when you're gone. You hope people will stop telling you you're foolishly hoping.
You hope for help. You hope people will try to understand. You hope she's included. You hope she makes a friend. You hope she's happy. You hope her life and your life are as normal as possible.
You desperately try not to lose hope.
And then, when you see her smile, when you see her working with friends, and hear her laughing, and saying hello, and when you see others say hello to her--because she's included in their group, and you watch her learn, and see she looks forward to her day, then you start imagining again.”
Eric Congdon is a local musician. In honor of his daughter, he wrote “Foolish Hope”. If you are interested in listening to or purchasing his song, click the link (https://itunes.apple.com/us/
Stay tuned, and stay up on autism!