During this season of giving, I was reminded last week of just how wonderful and generous the youth are in our area, whether members of the Church or not. I'm writing of a different kind of giving here--not the Christmas presents and food box variety--but the gift of social inclusion to those generally deemed "different."
When my son was first diagnosed with Asperger's in first grade, I checked off several things he would likely never do...play team sports, go to dances, date girls. A mission, college, and eventual marriage were even questionable. I thought he'd enjoy Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and enjoy getting his Eagle, but no, unlike many Aspies, the outdoors held no appeal for him.
As he grew up in our old ward in California, the youth went through the motions of trying to include him, but many Sundays he came home upset because there were always those who laughed at him and tormented him in some way. I'm so glad we moved, if only for his sake, for it proved to him (and me) that youth in the Church could be as loving and inclusive as Christ wants us to be.
So, what happened last week? I got a text message from one of my former Mia Maids, now a Laurel and a senior in high school. She's not only a member of the Seminary Council, but she's quite popular at school (and she's one of the girls my son, a Junior, has a crush on). Here's what she texted:
Lily: Would it be okay to take Jason to winter ball on the 18th? Do you know if he wants to go? I know it's the night of the ward Christmas party.
Me: I know he'd love to go with you. I'm just not sure he's comfortable about dancing. Let me get back to you, okay?
Lily: Yeah those were my thoughts too. I was thinking maybe we could do the dance for a while and dance with the group and get pics and then peace [sic] out. We'd be at the dance for maybe an hour.
Me: Sounds great. Go ahead and ask him.
Lily: Great! thanks :)
Then on Friday, when Jason went to eat lunch at the Seminary building at school (yes, we are unusually lucky to have release time Seminary up here in the Tri-Cities), he saw this huge banner Lily had put up asking him very publicly to the girls ask guys Winter Ball. Of course, he came home pleased as punch. And on Sunday in front of his whole Sunday School class, he nervously presented her with a long-stemmed red rose and his reply, "Of course I'll go with you, Lily. I can think of nothing I'd rather do."
My only remaining concern was how he would handle the traditional dinner before the dance. My son eats only grilled cheese sandwiches (and only the way I make them), a banana here and there, one particular kind of cinnamon cookie, and Dreyer's Grand Vanilla Ice Cream, and he only drinks water.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Lily had already made plans to double with another girl in our ward (who has a brother with more severe Asperger's), and they were planning on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. The other girl's mother said I was welcome to come and prepare the sandwiches just the way Jason likes.
I'm not sure if Lily realizes the extent of the gift she is giving my son. Even though she's half a foot taller than him, this beautiful, talented, vivacious girl is showing everyone at school that Jason is worth spending a special evening with. My son is actually pretty popular on campus in terms of friendship. Perhaps this will open the way for him to actually try asking someone to Homecoming and Prom next year--steps I never thought I'd see.
I promise to share a picture or two from his special night out next time I post.