Thanks to the People Who Get It

We are a society of people who do not give “unnecessary” thanks. We don’t go out of our way to praise people for doing the “right thing”. And it doesn’t matter why they’re doing the right thing, whether it’s their job, or penance, or the kindness of their hearts, it should be recognized. In general, we don’t thank people enough. I don’t thank people enough; I get too caught trying to endure the stresses of the present to remember to be thankful for the past blessings that kept me going along the way.

November is a great time to hit the reset button in that regard. This month, as we start gearing up for the Thanksgiving coup de gras of gratitude (and gluttony), we should pause and identify (even if it’s only in the privacy of our own skulls) the things that make us feel grateful.

I’m grateful for the people along the way who “get it”.

If you’re in the special needs community, as a member or caregiver of a member, you know what I mean. Some people get it. Those people at the supermarket who give you a smile and a nod instead of sidelong glance? They get it. That man who strikes up a conversation with you in the waiting room as you’re reading a book about Autism (even though you really want to just finish the damn chapter and be left the hell alone, not that I’m saying that totally happened to me)? He gets it. That member of your family who unexpectedly says, “Take the night off, we want to babysit the kids,” gets it too.

As a card carrying member of the “I don’t get it” society for much longer than I’ve been a member of this newer, more empathetic, less judgmental group, I appreciate the hell out of someone who gets it.

Almost invariably that person has trampled down the grass on the deer path of life that you’re now stumbling over (I don’t know…it’s deer season, right? I told you, I’m no good with metaphors). That person has tolerated the same irritated sidelong glances, answered the same well-meaning, but often soooo inappropriate questions; that person is…”Aware”.

I have been shooed out of church, I’ve been asked to leave a child’s talent show, and I’ve felt the heat of judgmental stares and heard the muttered whispers, but as I exercise some mental muscle to push those memories out I find myself also recalling the woman at church patiently picking Cheez-its out of her hair and turning to give my daughter a smile and making small talk with her. I remember too how my family arranges itself around the accommodations we make (family in front so they can take the swats/slaps/potential food projectiles, mommy and daddy to either side, sitting on the aisle for prompt trips to the potty) to give ourselves the best chance at a fun family trip to the movies, and how strangers have shrugged off attempted apologies and offered instead good-natured smiles and assurances.

Awareness comes at a price, I think. I don’t believe you can beat the “awareness drum” and have people dance to your rhythm unless they’ve heard the tune before. We see the ribbons and hear the slogans, but the push for “awareness” comes from too many angles all at once. There are simply too many important things lobbying for our awareness for us to develop any sort of meaningful understanding of them all.

I remember when I didn’t know what this path looked like. I remember when I didn’t get it. And maybe that’s why I’m not usually upset by the off-putting questions. How can they be expected to get it? They haven’t walked this path.

This past week my daughter pulled the fire alarm at school. At first I laughed before realizing that this might be a big deal to the school. Surely they get it? But I remembered when I was in grade school one of my classmates had pulled the alarm and gotten suspended.

The teacher called my wife laughing, “At some point all my students have pulled it,” she said. They get it.

And if you’re reading this, you probably get it too.

Thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for giving smiles instead of sneers. Thank you for withholding judgement and giving the benefit of the doubt, not just to my child, but to every child you ever came across who reminded you of a younger version of yourself, or of the son or daughter you already raised or are raising.

About Jim

Jim is a happily married father of two daughters, one autistic, one not. He writes about autism, parenting, and his busy family life at Just A Lil Blog when his busy family life allows.

39 thoughts on “Thanks to the People Who Get It

  1. I have always wanted to pull the fire alarm. They’re really tempting, all red and “don’t TOUCH me!” and when something tells me NOT to touch it, I totally want to.

    I feel like she was pulling the fire alarm for all of us, really.

    Kiddo can put Cheez-its in my hair anytime. My hair’s seen worse. It would probably improve the state of whatever’s happening up there, to tell you the truth.

    I’m the world’s crankiest person, but I get it. We’re all walking a pretty difficult path in one way or another. It’s nice when we can help each other out.

  2. You know it’s not always fun to “get it” when you are on your own in the trenches of it all but when you are supported by a whole group of people who “get it” in a way no one else can you can actually find things to laugh about. And now that I crossed over to the people who get it side I would never want to go back.

  3. Yes! Thank YOU for saying this Jim. I think sometimes we ask too much of the people around us when it comes to awareness. It’s too easy to forget a time when we didn’t know what we do now, what it was like before we lived with these challenges every day. I’m always so grateful when someone gets it, and try to patient with those that are still getting there. Thanks for the reminder.

    • I think I started realizing it when my wife was going through cancer and I knew NOTHING. And I just thought…so this is what all the pink ribbons are about? How the hell could I possibly have learned all this without living it?

  4. If it wasn’t for the people in my life who “get it” I don’t know where I would be.

    I’d certainly be drinking alone a lot.

  5. I still remember accidentally “testing” that fire alarm emergency door in Gold Circle. It just *needed* to be pushed…. glad to know that I’m in very good company!

    And speaking of good company — I’m glad to know another person who “gets it” and who spreads with “get it” word with posts like these. Thanks Jim!

  6. I like the part about this about the time before you had a child with special needs – when you didn’t get it – and didn’t know that you didn’t get it. I can’t say I was a meanie before I had a child on the spectrum, but I knew absolutely nothing about Autism or any neurological condition with much depth. In general, I could recognize a child with special needs that were obvious & be compassionate – but even though I have always tended to side on the part of kids who are crying or tantrumming (I’m a softie), I didn’t really understand the stress the parent was feeling. I am glad that I “get” most of “it” now. I’m sure there’s stuff I am totally unaware of still, but life is learning & I’m willing to learn.

  7. I loved this. The part about marching to the drumbeat unless they’ve played that tune hit home. It’s getting better. Things have changed so much in the seven years since Casey was diagnosed. People are so much more aware.

  8. Love, love, love this! I like how you talk about getting past the crappy experiences and realizing that there are other people out there who get it. I so appreciate my family, who has worked so hard to get it. Just this past weekend, at a family party, my brothers played with Danny and the other nephews. Danny did stupendously well (shockingly, really–I was expecting a meltdown but none came) and my brothers got to see a side of him that they don’t typically. My younger brother made it a point to call and tell me how great Danny had done. He really gets it.

  9. I have been amazed at the number of people who DO get it…and the ones who are willing to let it slide, or who are compassionate, even though they don’t really get it…I wish the challenges of an ASD child on no-one, but it has been an amazing experience, exhausting, but worth the journey. And the destruction and expense. And the lost dinners and movies and special events cut short. Most days. :)

  10. It’s been over a dozen years and sometimes I still “don’t get it”. What can I say…not the sharpest saw in the shack or something like that?!?

    Great post Jim! Mind if I share? Too late…already did. :D

  11. You know, I guess I never really thought about it from this particular angle. I mean, I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for the underdog and am quick to give the benefit of the doubt. The road we’ve walked since even before Nik was born has been so atypical that, oddly, I think I just assume people get it on some level. Until they show me otherwise. Somehow, it always takes me a bit by surprise.

      • I think it’s more that we knew from early on in my pregnancy that our child was at greater risk for disability. From his extremely early birth and months-long NICU stay, I think we just adopted a whole new sense of “normal” and never looked back. If that makes sense…don’t know that it’s so much a gender thing as much as, maybe, a survival thing?

  12. People who get it make life smoother on our bumpy life road, eh? Love this post but especially the part about having heard the tune before people dance to your rhythm. Here’s to pulling the fire alarms and smiling! What can you say? It’s something we’ve all thought about, right?

  13. Love this post. I certainly hope that I fall in line with one of the people that “gets it”.. Or at least someone would pull me aside and enlighten me as to how to be more supportive. I certainly did not understand before having children, when I knew so much more about parenting.
    As an aside, my cousin pulled the fire alarm in a hospital when he was a baby. My aunt was holding him, he was facing the wall and it was so pretty & red and asking to be touched. What’s a kid to do? It happens. Glad nobody is serving hard time as result of the false alarm.

  14. Great post Jim! I think you’re absolutely right that it can be hard to be fully aware and totally “get it” if you haven’t heard the tune before. Before my son’s diagnosis, I’ll admit, I was pretty clueless about Autism. And I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I like to think I was compassionate and non-judgemental, but I didn’t really “get it” like I do now. And wow, do I appreciate the people I encounter who “get it”. Sometimes that smile or kind word is what gets you through the day!

  15. I laughed too when I heard about her pulling the alarm and then paused to wonder if the school was laughing. So happy to hear that they were!

  16. Catching up on some reading, and came upon this one tonight. Not sure why this hit home so hard today, but it actually brought a tear to my eye. (Maybe it was because it was my son’s last day with his most AWESOME therapist EVER who “gets it….”) But whatever… thank you for putting into words what I feel SO very often. Like you, I don’t usually get offended by those who don’t “get it” because I was them not long ago. But WOW is it phenomenal when someone who truly understands takes a little piece of the load off by watching your kids, or just not GLARING at you at the grocery store. I “get it,” and I appreciate you taking the time to thank others who do. Often, I feel so overwhelmed with life that I forget to do the same. I might just have to copy your idea on MY blog….but I promise, I’ll change a couple of words at least. :-) Great timing for Thanksgiving, and I hope you have a nice one with your loved ones.

    • Sometimes you don’t even notice the weight of it until someone removes it from you. Like wearing warm wool socks and then pulling them off at the end of the day and just enjoying how magnificent it feels NOT having them on your feet.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

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