Tomorrow on the streets of downtown Colorado Springs there will be a parade to celebrate Veteran’s day. My daughter’s special needs class has been invited to carry the school banner in the parade. A wonderful experience for those kids that may never get a chance to play an instrument and march, or be part of a parade.
Last year as I sat on the curb waiting for my daughter’s class to march down the street, escorting the middle school band, I was so fortunate to be sitting next to a man that I have often seen wandering the streets of downtown.
Prior to the parade day, I would often ride my bike downtown to drink coffee and watch the bustle of downtown life. One morning I overheard this man telling someone that he has autism ( I told you all that I attract them like magnets!!). As I sat a few feet away from this man that day listening to the disclosure, my mind was going to all the students that I encounter and I began to see their faces in this man. Of course I thought of my daughter. If she is unable to live on her own or her brothers are not able to care for her and I am long gone, could this be her?
What opportunities or experiences had he had to participate in the community, if any? I try to imagine what his experience in school must have been and I shudder with sadness.
Last year for the parade, he sat next to me and read the entire parade float list out loud (at least six times). It was as though I had my own personal parade commentator. He saluted the veterans, sang with band and was able to tell me the year of every classic car that came past.
This man is an older man; grey hair, scruffy beard, dirty clothes and probably hungry. Yet living with the challenges he has, he is filled with happiness and always has a smile. He offers his filthy coat to women that pass by and he wishes every woman that walks by ‘happy mothers day’ on Mother’s Day.
Tomorrow we go back to the parade to see my girl march proudly with her school. What a wonderful opportunity for her to be a part of something so big.
Tomorrow I hope that I see my old friend again and I hope that I get to sit next to him and listen to the commentator.
Opportunities and experiences.