Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beliefs on my bumper...


Life has been very full the past few days, celebrating birthdays & getting ready for more... not to mention Valentine's Day (thank goodness C reminded me! I always get a false sense of security after finishing his birthday preparations, often forgetting the next important holiday that's just around the corner :). I turned 48 yesterday & while B was in school I not only enjoyed a delightful lunch with B's best buddy's mom, but went to see the eye doctor to have my eyes tested yet again. I received my first bifocal prescription at the age of 40 & have gone no more than 10 months before needing new lenses :( ever since. I suspect all the close-up work I do makes me more sensitive to my vision changes (that's the doctor's theory, too). After the exam, while I was seeing the optometrist to update my measurements & make sure my face hasn't changed in the last 10 months either (so the new glasses will fit) another patient arrived to get new contacts. We were both waiting idly when she asked if that was my car parked out front, with all the bumper stickers. I admitted it, & she spoke reminiscently of past cars of hers, similarly plastered with stickers, & told me she suspected we were very similar in outlook.

I enjoy these encounters very much (well, the positive ones :) since they usually come out of the blue & are as varied as discovering that the person in the car next to me, waving their hand, is not giving me the finger but the deaf "I Love You" or coming out of our downtown church to find some local photography students documenting the back of my car as "urban art". I'm quite sure that Professor Snape would find me quite comtemptible since not only do I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve (OoP pg. 473, UK paperback ed.) but also my beliefs on my bumper :) Ever since my first car, Bessie (in honour of Dr. Who's roadster), I have enjoyed finding creative bumper stickers that reflect ideas & perspectives I like to share with the world. We always buy used cars & drive them until they are ready to be put to sleep, so I generally have time to collect the necessary stickers- old faves & new ones that I've spotted around town or in catalogues (Syracuse Cultural Workers http://www.syrculturalworkers.com/ & Northern Sun http://www.northernsun.com/are my favourite venues) for the next vehicle. Some of my coolest stickers have been sent to me by friends far & wide (thanks Leila! :) & some represent local organisations that we support. I seem to have taken it all to a new level with "Hedwig" (B's name for my car) pictured above, though, & C keeps wondering when I'll run out of room...

After we had exchanged our favourite places to find cool bumperstickers, the woman asked me if I was active in some of the organisations whose stickers I display, which brought me up short. I said that we financially support them... & then got mentally stuck. Fortunately, I was standing in the little building where for 1 1/2 years I brought B weekly to work with Dr. C on his visual/motor difficulties. Although Dr. C & her husband have left town to be closer to family & sold the practise to another very skilled practitioner, the support staff is the same, & I had just been updating these lovely folks on B's general progress since they'd last seem him for a regular eye exam. So, I pulled my self mentally together & responded that I have an autistic child & am most active in advocacy work with him. And then our optometrists came to tend to us & it was time for me to say goodbye & thanks for the chat...

On my short drive home I thought about it all... again. Every so often our local urban justice organisation calls to remind us of the next rally or march, & I explain that we have a young child at home & aren't available, but are very happy to be financial supporters- & they, so far, have been unfailingly cheerful & kind in response. The bottom line is that B can't bear crowds or noise or unpredictable situations, & as the "veteran" of many protests, marches & rallies since the early 70's, I know that he'd be miserable if we tried to take him to such an event. So how do we give our autistic child the same value for social justice & change that we have? And how can I stay involved in social justice while retaining the precious energy I need to raise my challenging kid? We are fortunate that our church not only collects for the local food cupboard & has a strong social justice undercurrent as a community, but we also host homeless families for a week 4-5 times a year, as part of an interfaith hospitality network. C always volunteers to prepare a meal during these weeks & takes B with him to play with the kid guests (hide-and-seek with walkie-talkies is a favourite :), which is much more B's speed. B's school also works to empower the kids to seek solutions to the world's problems in a just manner by thoughtfully researching the things they'd like to see change or help to make better & then decide the best way they can effect change. This year B's class researched the hurricane Katrina aftermath & decided to have an on-going craft & bake sale so they could send money to the Red Cross for relief efforts. I have assisted by teaching crafts to his class & making bake-sale goods at home with B. But I can't escape the occasional feeling that I'm not doing enough...

Yesterday, I responded to that friendly woman's query that I am raising an autistic child & mostly advocate for him... & it struck me that this is social activism. Sometimes the classic "get involved in someone else's problem" school of activism is what sticks in my mind as "proper" social action. If my actions actually changed my life for the better it was a cop-out... but this really is a 60's-70's artefact, isn't it? I played wheelchair basketball back in late 70's & early 80's, & met & made friends with too many Vietnam vets to think that ending war anywhere else doesn't do us at home a great deal of good, too. The 90's "think globally/act locally" seems much more appropriate in these times when our actions as a country in the wider world have finally, tragically, come home to roost. So I realised, after I said it, that my advocacy for my child follows this philosophy. As many are discovering, if we can change the attitudes & policies in our little corner of the world, it can ripple outward to affect a great many others. This also follows my Jedi philosophy of treating others with respect (no matter how else I may feel like treating them...) as a spiritual/mindfulness practise. It's really hard sometimes- & all the more satisfying when I succeed. And it's not as though "coming out" publicly as the parent of a person with autism has been effortless. It felt like big steps to wear the "Autism Awareness" wristband (& hand them out to friends & family) & to put the puzzle-piece ribbon magnet on my car. I thought about these things for months before finding the courage & place in my life to act on them. It's all part of the process of living, really. It's a continuum: dealing with the changes in my life after B was born, emerging back into an active life with this challenging kid, finding out why he's so challenging, coping with my feelings about his diagnosis(es), & then taking steps to make life livable so that we can get back to the work of living in the world, as part of the world. Perhaps wearing my beliefs on my bumper has also been an important part of this process... saying "I'm still here! I still care!" during the times when my energies have to be spent on B & keeping our family functional. So, guess what? I'm a social activist, right out of my own home... :) Not that I can rest on my laurels, or anything... but it's ok!

3 Comments:

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

Keep on advocating! I find that is my "new" role as well as a parent of a son labeled autistic.

come on over and visit:
http://joyofautism.blogspot.com

Estee

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger not my blg said...

Lisa/Jedi Master

I love the bumper stickers, I think we must be political twins and Mac lovers.

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

estee- thanks for the invite :) I enjoyed visiting your site very much & have bookmarked it.

alexander's daddy- yeah, it's scary but we're actually a 3-mac family these days... **shakes head** We purchased our first mac (a Performa) when B was a baby (that's where the rainbow apple came from), upgraded to the G4 about 5 years ago, gave B the Performa when he entered 3rd grade as his first "own" computer (ostensibly for doing homework), but the hard drive failed only 3 months into his ownership, so I found a reconditioned power book from 1998 for $200 to replace it (a computer-science friend raved over it & identified it as a Wall Street model...), then I got my teeny ibook laptop last March, in anticipation of a trip to the west coast- it really came in handy for keeping B together during travel & for staying in touch with family while we were gone. I adore it! B recently added a windows-running pc to his collection for use with lego systems software, custom made for him by his best friend's father- he is one lucky kid!!!

I also wanted to let you know that I appreciated your polite but firm response to the right-wing mom in your comments section a bit ago... that was true grace under pressure!

 

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