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I wanted to change the world so that I could like the world more

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I cry nearly every single time I watch an “It Gets Better” video from LGBT activism, and I hope that the neurodiversity movement can learn from the class, optimism, and kindness of that campaign.

We need it.

A while ago I spoke with a mom whose Aspie son killed himself. I cry as I write this, months after we spoke.

She’d asked me to share her thoughts, his, and mine. She wants to somehow prevent this outcome for others.

She said, about meeting me, “You have brought up a lot of emotions” and “You have the same tics, twitches, and body mannerisms [as my son]”.

She had never heard the name Asperger, historically or diagnostically, until her son was well into his adolescence.

She said her son “wouldn’t suffer fools” and longed for beautiful and engaging company. He wanted to love and be loved.

Her key idea was to promote understanding that he may be perceived as rude, that his method of processing situations could cause offense. The narratives about the importance of eye contact dumbfounded him.

I joined her in lamenting that there were not additional adults, perhaps a cool guitar teacher, to mentor him. They could have engaged in a positive activity, and it is through fulfilling relationships that growth and hope happen.

While I can practically taste a world where a kid like this has a more positive experience, that flavor did not reach him in time.

And he completed suicide.

I told his mom, “When I was his age, I wanted to change the world so that I could like the world more.”

She said her son would have said the same thing.

I closed our conversation with, “I am so glad to meet you and so sorry that I will never meet your son.”

I would’ve loved to meet her son.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Caitie November 24, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Oh to change to world so that you can like it more- you made me cry! I can almost taste a world in which folks would be kinder to those around them, too. How do we get there?
    Great post!

    • byamtich November 24, 2014, 9:09 pm

      Thanks, Caitie! Liking the world is complicated, and perhaps easier begun in parts. A hobby, a friendship, a meal. I’m still thinking about responses, but to start, I know a lot of families are working diligently to help their kids understand themselves and others understand their kids.

  • nicole November 24, 2014, 10:56 pm

    Wow i cried. This is a heavy one. This was an emotional post that brought up a lot of emotions. My heart goes out to the mother and her son. I understand how he felt especially as a teenager when it can be tough age to fit in and find friends who understand and feel on a different level. I remember feeling much like him as a teenager and often had those thoughts of ending my life enter my mind. I didn’t see why I should stay in such an ugly world. It took a long time to see that there was beauty but it was harder to find it in those dark lonely days. I’m way past that now and on the other side but it took a long time of therapy and faith in a higher meaning of life.

    It’s hard to get people to understand compassion. Even simple tv programming with violence will cripple me and I use to lament on commercials being completely inappropriate even for my eyes and now my childrens eyes and… no one got it. no one but my husband. I often wondered why the world seemed to love violence and ugly ways. Why we praise ugly dark art and violent tv programs and why beautiful art often gets un noticed. Why people can get caught up in such wickedness… my heart never understood. As adults, I felt that was so childish and often wondered why others didn’t see the world through the same lens… It’s hard.

    I feel like caitie, how do we get there? I often think we are a drop of water and the people we touch are the water ripples. I hope by positive actions that we can help change the world one drop and ripple at a time.

    How do we train the older generations to teach the younger compassion and to take down the walls of discrimination and hate? On one side media is teaching people to accept others but at the same time the media glorifies ugliness and death and people get suckered into this and like it. I understand the world may never be a peaceful place but we can start at home. I remember I became best friends with my mother as a teenager and i believe she was my saving grace. I like what you said about a hobby friendship and a meal. So simple yet so meaningful.

    I’m trying now to connect and understand my child so as not to repeat my childhood. Easier said than done but this drive is something I hope will ripple positively to my children and out to others. So complicated at times. This is where I’ve been struggling the past year. Trying to balance put being a mom and yet trying to understand my children without giving in too much and then again many thoughts cross my mind like am I helping or damaging my child? These are real thoughts that I not only have but some mom friends who are going through similar situations raising similar children. It’s not easy.

    Beautiful post. My heart goes out to his mother.

    • byamtich November 24, 2014, 11:09 pm

      Hi Nicole,

      There is a lot here. I am inspired to share something different than empathy, different than advice, and different than brainstorming. All of those matter, and I can work with you to consider additional resources if you email me. What I want to share is in response to your comment that this is a heavy topic. Once, while focused on a different type of peace work, I spent a couple months in the North Cascades and I was at a retreat center cutting firewood, and somebody asked me how I remain motivated. I replied (approximate quote at a distance of over a decade), “I have never doubted that there will always be work to do, I just don’t feel responsible for the master plan.”

      Take that care you feel, and love your family every day. Hobbies, friendships, and meals.

      warmly,
      Bob

  • Paula Prober November 25, 2014, 1:58 am

    Beautiful post, Bob. Thank you.

  • Nicole Linn November 25, 2014, 2:12 am

    Bob, this was beautiful and brought me to tears. I feel the same way daily, and wish I could influence others to be kind. A lot more kindness and a lot less anger would change the world. I love your words above, “I don’t feel responsible for the master plan.” That realization makes it feel much more attainable, doesn’t it?

    • Nicole Linn November 25, 2014, 2:14 am

      A typo in my own name…a perfectionist’s nightmare…;)

  • Susan November 25, 2014, 3:40 am

    Bob, you’ve change the part of the world that has me in it! So grateful for your deep, earnest-yet-also-playful presence….

    • byamtich November 25, 2014, 3:42 am

      Suz, a few of the people reading this know I love waterslides, but you have been there with me.

      Nice website!

  • BARRY B GELSTON January 28, 2015, 12:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing Bob. It seems that all of these issues come together in just wanting to make a non-violent world of people who can respect each other. It is hard to believe that it can be that hard, but it is.
    Keep up your great work.

    • byamtich January 28, 2015, 12:38 pm

      Thanks Barry. Your comment empowered me to read through it again, remembering and re-feeling it. Crying again.

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