What A Person With Autism Can Teach Me

Rosh Hashanah Special Needs

As we approach the Jewish New Year, it is a time when we think about the past year and the year that is ahead of us. What goals did we set for ourselves and what did we actually accomplish? Was it a good year in the greater scheme of things and what do we have to be thankful for?

Then we move forward and set new goals and dreams for the upcoming year. What do we want to accomplish in this upcoming year, where do we want to be heading, what would we like to add to our list of achievements?

How do we do this though? How do we prioritize what is on our list, what we are thankful for, and what we would like to achieve?

A Matter Of Perspective

Rosh Hashanah PerspectiveThere is a story told of a philosophy professor that stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.

The Important Things In Life

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your spouse or friends. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the garbage disposal.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

What A Person with Autism can Teach me

I believe that this is what a person with Autism can help teach me, to appreciate the simple necessities in life that I so often take for granted and forget how integral they are to me. How to properly categorize the rocks, pebbles, and sand in my life.

They can teach me how to live in simple laughter and joy no matter what is going on around them. How to be non-judgmental even to those that are judging them or even worse. How the physical realities and stresses that we create for ourselves aren’t what they are made out to be and that they don’t matter so much in the greater scheme of things. How to appreciate the simple things in life and that those simple things are the really important rocks of life.

Most importantly to me, my friends with autism have taught me how to unconditionally and truly love. I know that my friends with Autism are simply that – Friends. They don’t have an ulterior agenda, there are no tags attached to this friendship, no expectations or anticipations beyond that of simple love and friendship.

As I sit down to review what I filled my jar of life with this past year and what I would like to fill it with in this coming year, I ask myself a few questions. Was I a good friend, spouse, parent, and child this past year? How can I work on attaining some of that pure unadulterated love? With this coming year, I would like to come to appreciate the love of life itself the way my friends with Autism do.

 About The Author
Yarden Blumstein is the Teen Volunteer Coordinator at The Friendship Circle. In addition, Yarden is the Rabbi of The Friendship House recovery community and teaches in a local high school.

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