The other day, a friend of mine email me the following letter from a 7-year-old second-grader, Abigal Lily Alder, at Heron Heights Elementary in Broward County, and I want to share it with you, my dear Neighbors in Religion readers:
The title: "AUTISM SPEAKS to Me!"
"If I could help somebody it would be my brother, Grant, who has autism. People with autism like Grant sometimes have trouble communicating and they may act 'different.' I participated in a walk for Autism Speaks with my family, and learned that for every 88 kids one of them will have autism like my brother. If you have a conversation with someone who has autism they are not always able to focus on what you are saying and they may only want to talk about things that are important to them.
“Restaurants, playgrounds and shops can sometimes be too exciting for them at first. They may be loud, say things you may not expect or they may have trouble understanding what you are asking them.
I would like people to accept kids like my brother who are unique in their own way, and not judge them. Just be patient. If you see someone who you think may have autism, you should help them or just be a friend. I went to camp during the summer with kids who have autism like my brother, and I found out that they can be real friends just like anyone else. We laughed together and played games. It was a blast and I am still friends with many of them.
“There are good things about autism, too. My brother is the most fun and active person. He is awesome on computers and every morning when I wake up, my brother has a big smile on his face and he says, 'It is a beautiful morning.' He is still the BEST BROTHER EVER!
“I know I may be only seven, but I can make a difference and so can you."
Abby is in Mrs. Chiros' class and was the essay contest winner for her grade level.
Oh, thank you, so much Abby. You are wise beyond your young years. I know your parents are so proud of how sensitive you are — and that's a feather in their hats. God bless you and Grant. My godson Isaiah Swift, 6, has autism and I love him so much, and tell him often.
Although he had not been able to speak, one day at church he shocked my boots off, so to speak, when he said without any prompting, "I ... love ... you.”
It brought tears of joy to my eyes.
‘Why I am Thankful’
On Dec. 28, I asked readers to share reasons they are thankful. Here is a response from Charlotte Delascasas:
"I am grateful for the upcoming MLK Holiday and our national tradition of community service. Coral Gables Congregational Church will be having their annual food drive and Pastor Laurie Hafner will remain fasting up in the tower until 3,000 pounds (one dollar also equals one pound) is raised before the cherry picker brings her down, usually 7 p.m. Saturday night, when there will be a rock ‘n’ roll band in our parking lot in front of the Biltmore Hotel, to celebrate.
“Our church will also adult education about Dr. King from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m., each Sunday in January. I am thankful that our congregation welcomes everyone, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey, with an open door. Each Thanksgiving we join Temple Judea and Riviera Presbyterian for an interfaith service and we have welcomed theologians from all religions to speak as well. Our social justice program includes Green Christians, who have just started a community garden.
“Other programs include a Wednesday night supper that costs only $5 per person and you will be entertained with music from the children's choir, who will be practicing on that evening.
Peace be with you."
And may you share in God's blessings as well.
More on MLK
The public is invited to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which will include a special program at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17, in the Chapel of the Ancient Spanish Monastery at 16711 W. Dixie Hwy. in North Miami Beach.
Although there will be other celebrations honoring the late civil rights leader, Joan J. James, vice president of the board at St. Bernard Episcopal Church said, "but there is nothing in our area of North Dade. We hope this event for our community will focus on Dr. King's legacy and the diversity which enriches us all."
The program will include the Rev. Dr. James Ottley, an Episcopal bishop, who was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to represent the 90 million members of the worldwide Anglican Communion at the United Nations.
Others on the program will include the Florida Memorial University Chorale and choreographer Monique Allen, who will perform a dance interpretation of the poem by Maya Angelou, written for Dr. King in 2011, and entitled: "Abundant Hope."
Scholarships will be award to area students whose grades demonstrate merit with emphasis on citizenship and service to the global community.
College-bound students from area schools are eligible to apply for the scholarships, To do so, contact Dr. Janie Greenleaf, president of the Monastery Foundation at 305-945-1461 or go to www.spanishmonastery.com.
The deadline for application submission is Jan. 15. A reception will follow the program in the Cloisters. it's free and open to the public.
Mommy and Me
"Baby Joy," a Mommy and Me program hosted by The Gordon Schools of Beth David Congregation at 2625 SW Third Ave., will be from 9 to 9:45 a.m. on Wednesdays, Jan. 16, through March 20 at the school.
The program is a "stimulating, creative and multisensory bilingual class" for parents to enjoy with children ages 8-24 months. The cost is, $200. For more information and to register, email email@example.com or call 305-854-3282.
Also, a free parent seminar entitled: "Raising a Brave Child," will be from 9 to 10 a.m. at the synagogue.
University of Miami psychologist Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May will discuss the normal development of fear and anxiety in childhood, why these emotions are experienced more intensely by some children, and how to "coach" your child through these strong feelings when they occur.
According to a press release from the synagogue, "Parents and teachers are key to fostering healthy regulation of fear and anxiety in childhood by allowing their child to experience fear feelings normally, understanding fear reactions and providing consistent, empathic support as children cope with new or scary times.
Light refreshments will be served. Pre-registration is required. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org.