I found out recently that an old friend of mine gave birth to a Down’s Syndrome baby. I called her to congratulate her on the new baby and I asked her questions about what she might need or how she might feel. I didn’t know what to say, really, because the occasion must have been one of very mixed emotions for her family….I thought to myself ~ should I say “I’m sorry”? Should I say “you can do it!” ? I was very awkward on the phone….but it turned out it didn’t matter.
“You know what?” she said to me, as she started to cry….”you’re the only person out of everyone I know who has even acknowledged the situation. Everyone else is acting like the emperor’s got all his clothes on when I can see very well that he’s naked. It’s like nobody even cares that this is happening to us.”
And I thought about when Jonah was first diagnosed with autism. The news filtered through our friends and family, as news tends to do, and at first people were supportive, but now, nothing. Nobody ever mentions it unless we do first. Maybe people want to downplay the fact that Jonah is different or maybe people don’t realize what a challenge our lives have become because of this thing. Maybe people just don’t know what to say and so they say nothing.
Well my advice to everyone out there is this: say something. Say anything. When you find out someone is dealing with something, be it sickness or death or cancer or whatever, send a note or pick up the phone. Your awkwardness will be forgiven and your reaching out will be appreciated. Silence is often interpreted as indifference….and that’s what hurts the most.
When the emperor is naked, don’t pretend he’s not.