I hardly ever talk about Max's autism to people. I don't want to be misunderstood and truthfully, it would be too hurtful to be judged harshly. So I mostly keep to myself how Max's autism affects him and our personal lives. I love Max very much; he is my first-born, I have always been very protective of him and hard on him at the same time. Pushing him to do his very best, challenging him to go as far as he can go, to never let autism hold him back. To not let it define him as a human being or disable him in any way. It is him that needs to disable autism. It is why I am hard on him. Hopefully not too hard--I sometimes question if I am--but I cannot stand to see my son crippled in any way when I see how much potential he has.
But when I see Max shining through his autism, his personal challenges, whatever name you want to call it, I feel so happy that I have to tell the world!
Our priest had learned that Max had a special devotion to his patron saint, St.Maximilian Kolbe. He asked if I thought Max would be willing to tell the group of children a little about him. I told him I thought he would but I wasn't sure how well he would do in sequencing the story together. The priest wasn't worried about that or expecting too much so we just planned on Max telling whatever he could remember about the saint.
When the day came, Max was very excited. We went over a few facts about St.Maximilian's life but other than that, I didn't really help him much at all with the story. Mostly, I just wanted him to remember a few main important events of his life.
When we got in the church, there were children and adults intermingled throughout the church. The priest had all the children come up near the altar steps where they knelt down. He led them in prayer, song, and discussion before the Blessed Sacrament. And then the moment came for Max to talk about St.Maximilian.
My heart was thumping in nervousness for Max. I shushed Anna who had to choose that very moment to whisper all sorts of things to me. But all I could hear was Max. What I had expected from Max was a few words about the Saint. But Max surprised me. Because what Max did was talk about the St.Maximilian for 10 minutes straight. In great detail. Very great detail. He even made different voices for the guards that arrested St.Maximilian!
He was not nervous. He rocked a little back and forth which is what he does when he's excited or nervous but he wasn't nervous in the least. He was just all about telling the story and teaching the children about St.Maximilian.
I looked around the church and all eyes were fixed on him. Not one child squirmed or looked bored. They seemed to be entranced with Max's enthusiasm about St.Maximilian.
The adults were more interested than the children. They sat there with these big smiles on their faces. Each parent was smiling and looking amazed! You have no idea how good that felt. I just sat there smiling along with them, my eyes getting misty, and every so often I would look at the Blessed Sacrament who I knew was smiling at Max too. It was such a great moment for me and Max. At the end, everyone clapped for Max. And clapped and clapped.
And you know what? Not one person knew that Max had autism that day.
If they did guess it, they never brought it up or asked about it. Instead, they asked me, "how on earth does Max know so much about St.Maximilian??" They must have thought I had drilled the story into his head or something. I never have. Max just loves to listen to his story over and over that pretty soon, he had it memorized.
They asked me how old he was. They couldn't believe a 10 year old would have so much interest in a saint.
And they complimented Max over and over, telling him what a great job he did. Max smiled, nodded, said thank you. He looked so confident and pleased. He was loving it! He was working the crowd, letting people come up to him, shaking their hand, answering their questions.
And the best part is, Max did not have autism that day. He overcame it.
I had told you how I glanced at the Blessed Sacrament while Max was talking. I actually did this many times, as my glance was a prayer of thanks. I knew He understood what I was feeling.
Max does have many problems that we are working on here at home. Again, it's not something I talk about and it doesn't feel right to talk about Max in a way that I know would embarrass him. But we do have a long road ahead of us and there are things that need to get better fast before it gets to be a real problem. Our life at home isn't perfect and we all are working on things that we have to change about ourselves in order to be a more peaceful family. And Max does struggle very much, more than people know. But he is a good kid with so many gifts. I sometimes lose sight of that. Sometimes all I see is autism.
But that Friday, all I saw was Max. It was such a great reminder of who Max really is. It was also a sign of real hope for me that Max one day will lead a normal life. He has so many gifts and I know that God is going to use him for something good.
I loved that surprise on Friday. I hope Max will keep surprising and wowing us all. He has so much inside him that autism cannot hold in. One day I believe he will overcome it. One day, he will wow the world.
Just wait and see. ;-)