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.