Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is today in the United States, a day considered to be a national day of service here. Many use this holiday to perform an act of service locally, such as helping those who are homeless or cleaning up parks and community spaces.
Admittedly, as autism parents, it’s very difficult for us to get out and do things like this. I can’t remember the last time I did much in my community that didn’t directly involve autism, except maybe cleaning up a bit of litter while I was out walking near the river.
It’s not that we don’t want to or don’t care about our communities. We often just find the simple act of getting out of the house hard to do. Maybe we feel some guilt about this; maybe we don’t.
But in part, I think we are created as human beings to help each other. When we can’t, our worlds shrink, and we become isolated from others. And isolation is the last thing we need as autism parents.
If the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States teach us anything, it’s that the rights and freedoms of others are inextricably linked with our own. Likewise, our ability to overcome the challenges in our lives are inextricably linked with our ability to connect and work together for each other’s rights, freedoms, hopes, and dreams.
Isolation makes us feel like we’re doing everything on our own. We feel angry, perhaps day in and day out, because we fight the institutions and people who want to take our rights and those of our children away. We’re angry, tired, burned out. We feel defeated.
We aren’t meant to fight these battles alone.
So what do we do?
Maybe we can’t go out into our local, physical communities and do much, but we can go out into the online autism community and make a difference. From the heart of our own pain and challenges, we can reach out to others who are struggling and offer words of encouragement. We can forge powerful connections that help lift us all up.
I don’t know how many times complete strangers have e-mailed me encouragement, and I value each person and each message. I’ve tried to make it a habit with these newsletters and my own messages to people to offer the same.
So on this day of service, consider practicing this with each other. Just commit to once a day sending a little message of encouragement and support to someone online(Facebook, e-mail, whatever works for you). If you have been isolated for a long time, begin reaching out to people you come across online with a kind word, even if they don’t know you.
Not only will you be building others up and surrounding them with support and encouragement, you will feel lifted up yourself just from the act of having done this for someone else. Supporting others just makes you feel better and more connected. It helps you transcend your daily life and become a part of something greater than yourself. If you find yourself stuck in a hole, this helps you see outside of it.
Reach out and support others, and you will feel supported regardless. It’s a simple act of service that strengthens both the autism community and you personally.