Six years ago today, Riley entered, and everything shifted. She took two people and completely changed the way we look at the world. She is our wisdom girl. Our teacher. Through her we’ve learned that no one knows what is going on inside another person’s body. Inside another person’s mind. She took our judgements and sliced right through them.
There is a woman on my street who has children about the same ages as mine. We’d exchanged small talk several times and she was very interested in getting our girls together to play when we first moved in. At least, she was interested until she learned of Riley’s autistic spectrum disorder. She hadn't actually spent any time with Riley other than a quick hello, so I felt I had to fill her in before we set a play date. After that conversation, she went out of her way to avoid me. No more small talk. She averts her eyes when we cross paths. Never did we get an invite, and for over a year, I’ve hated her.
Yesterday morning I went for a walk. The above mentioned woman was also out walking and was about 100 yards ahead, oblivious to my presence. For a while, I stared at her hard, thinking evil thoughts. Then I thought of the birthday girl.
When Riley acts out, it's because she is hurting.
I stared at the woman some more.
I breathed in thoughts of Riley.
I told myself, "You Just don't know."
I kept staring. Her perfect haircut. Her perfect workout clothes.
You just never know.
This woman is someone who has a tightly controlled grip on life. Her inability to extend love to someone that might be "different" is simply her limitation. It is a weakness in her character. You might say, it's one of her wounds.
Suddenly, my hate melted and I felt compassion for her. I actually felt warmth in my heart for the poor dear. She's so afraid.
As soon as the shift was made in my mind, this formerly evil neighbor went from walking, to a glorious run. She started to take a left down a side street and I blessed her as she vanished from my sight.
THAT'S the kind of power my girl's got. That's Riley.
Happy birthday, dolly.
** This evening, June 4th, 2006 (7 PM - 9 PM est), Dateline is doing a piece on the autism/mercury connection. Read about it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13104961/