“Above all, keep loving each other earnestly, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
A few months ago I was at a restaurant with a couple of friends when a new group was seated at the booth behind ours. The chairs were tall and we could barely see the top of the silver-haired head of the man that was seated directly at my back. Almost immediately, there was a forceful bump. No big deal. Surely, it was an accident. BUMP! BUMP! BUMP! The man was, as best we could tell, repeatedly rocking back and forth in his seat. I smiled at my friend seated beside me – another spectrum parent – and said, “Maybe he’s autistic.”
I am finding that situations like this one come up frequently nowadays. In moments when people are at their most annoying, I find myself internally begging their pardon, imagining scenarios that would excuse their behavior. I have given it some thought, and I have to believe that this is yet another way that God is using autism to do His good work in my life.
While it’s important to examine our own intentions carefully, it seems that the Bible teaches us to take a different approach with others – to always believe the best possible motive is driving them until proven otherwise. We are told to be “patient,” “not easily angered,” to “bear all things,” and to “keep no record of wrongdoing.” One translation reads that we are to be “ever ready to believe the best of every person.” (1 Corinthians 13)
As a spectrum parent, I have had my share of people NOT believing the best in me. I have had people tell me that I need to learn to control my child when my son melted to the floor in a tantrum. I’ve silently borne dirty looks when others realized that my then three-year-old wasn’t potty trained. One mother once said in my hearing, “Isn’t that what the Bible says?!? Train your children?!?” The first thought to cross my mind was, “We’re not all dealt the same hand.” Well, the first thought after I suppressed the one that said to smack her.
The fact is, we’re not dealt the same hand. Many times, we’re not even playing the same game. I’ve often felt like everyone was expecting me to play Texas Hold’em when I all I had were UNO cards. I remember one occasion when my friend, Nikki suggested that we take Luke and her daughter, Eden, into her front yard to blow bubbles – her unfenced front yard. Her idea was innocent enough, but in my world she might as well have suggested having a picnic on I-95. I practically had to sit on Luke to keep him from running in the street, or trying to disappear into a neighbor’s property.
On another occasion my friend Tiffany suggested we let Luke and her son, Maverick, out of their strollers at the mall to play in the toy store. This ended with me frantically chasing Luke through the crowd. Back then I would attempt such ventures, fearing that other parents would think I was a bad mother for not being able to control my child in these situations. I’ve since become comfortable explaining that I don’t have a standard deck but they are more than welcome to play UNO with me.
So, the next time someone leans on their horn and curses me on the road, or I’m stuck behind a difficult lady in the checkout lane, I’ll simply wonder what hand she has been dealt that day, and say a prayer for her. For all I know, she could be playing Old Maid.