Saturday, December 23, 2006

A SEASON OF JOY, HOPE AND TRANSFORMATION

. . . and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I’ve always loved Dickens’ classic about Scrooge. It speaks of what I yearn for most at Christmas: transformation. Maybe it’s because Christmas comes so close to the date on which we change our calendars over, or maybe because the underlying story of Christmas is the transformation of mankind through something so simple and natural as the birth of a child. Whatever the reason, I always look for a big transformation in my life at this time of the year.

Yes, I know transformation has to start within. That’s why we make New Year’s resolutions. But it’s only natural to look for Christmas miracles.

My expectations for transformation are so high, and are never realized ⎯ at least not in ways I initially thought. I’ve come to realize that I need to not look just for a transformation yet to come, but also to notice the transformations that have occurred in my life without appreciation on my part.

My son’s autism has transformed my life . . . for better and worse. Do I wish it never happened? That’s a fair statement. Is it something I want to change? Absolutely. And yet it has led me to wonderful places. I’ve written before of how having a child on the spectrum has made me a better parent to all my children. And it has introduced me to wonderful people I have so little in common with except the fact that our children have ASD.

Transformation is a gradual process, and sometimes requires the ability to reflect. For example, several months ago I spoke favorably of the short video “Autism Every Day,” produced by Autism Speaks. I was almost relieved to see a stark depiction of the problems some of us face, mainly because it came at a time when we were bombarded with media stories that seemed to imply that autism was basically a pretty cool thing to have in one’s life. (Hey kids, it’s fun; you can play piano sonatas, shoot three-pointers, and you’ll be ever so smart.)

Although I initially agreed to an extent with many of the criticisms leveled at the video, I thought it was a worthwhile undertaking. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve changed my opinion; the flaws in the video are big enough to keep it from being a positive contribution to “autism awareness.” Specifically, the video lacks two important elements: joy and hope. No joy is expressed for the lives of our children, autism and all. And there is no hope expressed that we can improve the lives of our children. Without joy and hope, any “awareness” is empty.

Joy and hope are essential to the lives of everyone, including “curebies.” Hope and joy fuel transformation.

My wish for you and your family is that you have a blessed Christmas and a transforming New Year. I hope 2007 will be filled with enough joy to recognize the miracles around us, even as we hope for miracles yet to come.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

13 Comments:

Anonymous mom-nos said...

Wade, as always, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and balance. Merry Christmas to the whole Rankin family, and all the best in the new year!

12/23/06, 1:23 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Merry Christmas to the whole Rankin family.
Thank you for your post.

12/23/06, 7:09 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Nice post Wade.

'Joy and hope' is a great summation of everything we all want for our families in this great continual work-in-progress that we call life.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

12/24/06, 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At our worst, my daughter's ASD was a living hell. I thought the video at least gave a voice to the parents who are on the front lines everyday. I desperatly needed some compassion from family and friends and sharing this film with them gave them some perspective. I felt much more support as a result.

Looking back, I agree there was no hope or joy expressed in the film.

My daughter is recovering beautifully, and watching her play the other day I thought to myself, "this kid is living with so much joy now."

It has been quite a ride but there is much hope and much joy. Thanks for mentioning it.

Happy Holidays!

12/24/06, 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Shawn said...

Here's wishing joy and hope back to you and your family.

Transformation . . . you've just written another post that's going to stick in my head for a few days. It's a wonderful topic on which to reflect.

Merry Christmas!

12/24/06, 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see it takes a foreigner [alien] to put you lot on the politically correct path - "Happy Holidays," may your God, fairy or personal talisman [woman?] bring you good will - Cheers

12/24/06, 2:33 PM  
Anonymous holiday greetings said...

I'm trying to find a blog post you wrote about the Autism Speaks video previous to your May 15th ("Autism Every Day") blog post, if I am remembering correctly. I can't recall the title, can you help? Thanks.

12/24/06, 6:30 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Holiday Greetings,

Although I’ve probably left the odd comment about the video here or there, the only two posts I recall devoting to it were the July 15 “Autism Every Day,” and the July 17 “More About Autism Every Day.”

In keeping with another comment above, Happy [insert favorite midwinter observance here].

12/24/06, 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joy and Hope -- yes, you're right. Among the challenges are the wonderful moments that keep us going each day. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

12/24/06, 9:30 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Merry Xmas to you and yours, and more----peace and good will and always, hope and joy, on this day of transformation and to many more transformations to come.

Very glad to be walking on this journey in such good company.

12/25/06, 7:20 PM  
Blogger Erik Nanstiel said...

Merry belated christmas and a happy New year to all!

-Erik

12/27/06, 8:18 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I saw the Autism Every Day video for the first time a few hours ago, and then came online to read other's reactions to it.

I've read a lot of negative opinion toward the film expressed; it was a nice change to read your less judgmental perspective.

My son who has autism is eighteen. My life with him has been easier than many I've known--I count my blessings but I certainly don't judge others who have more difficult daily lives.

I'm surprised to hear so many say there was no hope or joy expressed in the film. I remember distinctly a father commenting that his son was his "hero" for teaching him so much every day about life and love. I heard parents celebrating the small victories--a son says "juice" and his mother delights with him in that communication.

For many families, autism is an intense daily journey. Your comments about the positive aspects of autism that often make the news is valid. The families in this film have honest pain and they share it here. I think they deserve a break.

One last thought--it's interesting that people are so quick to criticize the mother who admits to thoughts of murder/suicide (though I didn't feel for one minute that she meant to suggest she would really go through with it), but no one attacks the father who admits that he has contemplated his son's accidental death in the pond on their property.

1/28/07, 1:38 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Excellent comments, Laurie. Your experiences with autism on a daily basis are not unlike ours, and my first reaction to the video was much like yours. And I still think it's not as evil as some have labeled it, but I think it is a very flawed product.

For its flaws -- primarily the lack of balance -- I blame Autism Speaks who produced the video rather than the parents. (Indeed, not long after my original post on the film, I posted comments by one of the parents to provide a little perspective. Nevertheless, one cannot escape the fact that the mother who made the suicide/homicide comments is one of the leaders of AS, and that subsequent comments she made in interviews made it quite clear that her words were not taken out of context.)

1/28/07, 9:06 AM  

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