How Do You Recognize A Neighbor? 

  • Homebound and Healing
  • Feb 22, 2017

While attending Family Chapel at Christian’s school yesterday,  I was reminded of the book, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Truth be told I’ve never read the book, but I couldn’t help but sit there and think that more people should practice the simple lessons that are taught early on. If you don’t consider yourself to be a religious individual, please don’t stop reading this story…It’s not a religious one…Its a human one!

As is common amongst siblings of children with autism, Christian struggles for my attention regularly, especially if his brother is having a tough day. We say in our house, “If Jim is having a good day, then we’re all having a good day!” So I’ve been making more of an effort to set special time aside to do things with Christian when possible, and attending Family Chapel once a month with him is one of my goals for 2017.

I am so happy that I was able to be a part of yesterday’s experience. When we arrived at the school, it was explained that Christian’s class was going to be leading everyone in song with Miss Elizabeth, the catechesis instructor. So I got a two for one deal! Not only did I get to participate in chapel with Christian, I also got to see him perform with his classmates. He is quite the ham! No stage fright there!
Miss Elizabeth read the bible story, “The Good Samaritan,” aloud to all of those in attendance. Next she had four children go up on the stage and act out the story after she had finished reading it, so that the children could really visualize and comprehend the message being taught.

I was immediately reminded of the countless times that I have found myself in desperate need of help with Jim out in the community, and how the majority of the time no one stops to assist. Usually one of two things happen…

We either get the unbelievably rude stares from people who look like we are causing a scene on purpose (like my idea of a good time is getting my hair ripped out in a store while I’m trying to stop my twelve year old from beating himself to a pulp), or we get passed by people who are clearly too self absorbed in their trivial activities to be bothered by the calamity this taking place.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself immersed in a full on battle in the middle of a parking lot with with both of my children. Christian had a tennis lesson after school and my husband, who has had multiple back surgeries, was in horrible shape. I could not leave Jim with Jeremy, so I decided to be brave and take him with me. I called the school and asked them to bring Christian out to the car, as trying to have Jim exit and re-enter the car in a short period of time poses certain challenges which I was trying to avoid like the plague. Christian’s teacher, Ms. Robin, was very gracious and helpful with this request.

Jim’s behavior in the car on the way to tennis was better than usual and for a moment I actually thought to myself, “Wow! This isn’t so bad. We are actually doing this!”

Clearly I got a little too over confident, because the moment I took Jim out of the car, he went bananas!!!  The parking lot that we typically use was full so we had to park across the street. I told Christian to stand close to me, but to stay away from Jim, so that he wouldn’t get hurt.

Jim was screaming at the top of his lungs, jumping up and down, bashing himself in the face with both hands, and then started grabbing me by the hair and head-butting me with unbelievable force. My initial thought was, “Here we go! I’m going to get another concussion, right here in the parking lot with these two kids.”

At that point it was clear that I had a better chance of being hit by lightning than Jim’s tantrum de-escalating. He was fired up beyond belief. I was able to get him a few feet and then he kicked his shoes off, threw himself onto the pavement and began thrashing his body repeatedly on the ground, which resulted in multiple abrasions to his arms, hands, legs and feet. Shots started flying from every angle- however Jim could get them in. I was basically short ten extra hands in order to prevent the two of us from getting hurt.

Unfortunately when Jim decided to throw himself down, he did so in the middle of the aproach of the lot we were in. So the three of us were in the triangle of the main road and the parking lot. Christian is all of three and a half feet tall, and Jim and I were wrestling on the ground, which put us all in the blind of a very dangerous situation.

Cars were driving by, there were over a dozen people on the tennis courts (within two hundred feet) and golfers were directly on the course behind us.

The beating continued and after several minutes I realized no one was coming to our aide. Cars had literally swerved around us to park- heaven forbid they were late for their tee time or tennis match! I took my hands off of Jim, told Christian not to move a muscle, and grabbed my phone out of my purse, so that I could call my friend Jenny, whose son also attends tennis with Christian. While I was on the phone Jim continued to deliver blow after blow to himself.

I told Jenny where we were and she came immediately. I asked her to take Christian over to his lesson, since there was no way I could get him there and he had witnessed enough already. Jenny told me she would come right back.

While I was on the ground I could see the people playing tennis, and all I could think was how could they still be playing? I would never be able to do that. I would have had to say, “Something is wrong! Maybe someone needs our help,” to the other players.

In addition to Jenny, only one car stopped to inquire if we were alright, while I was alone with Jim. Jenny was rounding the bend on her way back, so I told the other woman that help was coming- I didn’t want her to get rear-ended as she was turning into the lot.

The tantrum had now been going on for nearly 25 minutes, which felt like an eternity. Jenny could not have been a better friend to me. She offered to help me get Jim back to the car. I grabbed his arms and she grabbed his legs and we shuffled our way back.  We had to set him down on the ground again until we could get him calm enough to get in the vehicle. Once Jim and I were inside Jenny told me that she could bring Christian home. So I thanked her immensely, said a few prayers and started off on the drive back home with Jim. The first five minutes or so were rough but then he calmed down. He fell asleep when we got back to the house, so I was able to go back and get Christian.

I was later told by Mike, the tennis instructor, that he had wanted to come help, but he had 6 small children that he couldn’t leave unattended. I assured him that I know him well enough to know that he would have been there immediately if he could have.

Out of all of the people that saw us in trouble, heard the gut wrenching screams and witnessed a child beating himself and his mother with a five year old standing there, only two of them could take themselves away from what they were doing, and a third person would surely have come if he could have. Three people total wanted to help. Three people out of at least 30. Perhaps if more people had been less worried about where they were going or what game they were playing, Jim would have been able to walk away from the episode with a few less bruises, and I would have maintained a little more faith in the compassion of mankind.

I am indebted to the staff at Cross School for helping me teach my son, how to lead a life full of love and compassion for others. I am also grateful to my three “neighbors” that day.  Especially Jenny for her friendship and understanding. I don’t know what I would have done without her help.

So the next time you see or hear someone in trouble, perhaps ask yourself if you are really too busy to offer assistance to someone who really needs it and if you can somehow make the world a better place.