This I Believe

David - New Market, Alabama
Entered on December 2, 2006

I believe that, for all our differences, we are the same.

Several years ago I worked in Colorado on a community based leisure program for adults with developmental disabilities. I had a minibus, a desk in someone else’s office and there was a church hall we could use if the weather was bad.

There were six adults in my group at the time with various disabilities. One of the group members, M, had a diagnosis of autism. He would stand and stare, grab my hands and he had a limited number of phrases in English and Spanish which he used.

When we first met M would follow me around everywhere like a shadow. Then he began to ignore me. I became concerned that I was not helping M and talked about this with Phil, the pastor at the church. Phil told me that he’d noticed that M would ignore me as long as I was there but as soon as I left the room he would look for me and ask repeatedly where ‘Bobrob’ (why he called me this I never could tell) was.

One day Phil asked me if M knew that he was different from everyone else. At the time I said ‘No, I don’t think so’.

This conversation has stayed with me ever since. Over the past six years I’ve changed jobs and moved states, I now have a son of my own, but the question kept coming back to me: ‘Does M know that he is different from everyone else?’ Something was not right.

What I now believe is that we need to turn that question on its head:

‘Do we know that we are no different from M?’

M needs sustenance and safety. He needs to have friends and to be a friend. He needs people (everyone should have someone they can ignore, I’m joking). And, so do I, and, I’m guessing, so do you.

For all our very real differences, there is much we have in common. And, if I learn to recognize the similarities, I might come to appreciate our differences more.

This I believe.