“Nothing carries more potential for change than individual acts of human kindness”
It truly took this journey with my son to fully understand the meaning and power behind the message in this quote. It’s amazing how a few individuals and their love, dedication and compassion for our family could’ve so completely altered the way I see the world around me. Because of them, I now see love where I saw judgement, I see hope where I saw despair, I see unending reasons to be grateful where I saw reasons to be resentful and most importantly……. I now realize the substantial impact an act of kindness can truly make on someone’s life and the potential it has to change them forever.
Meet Gretchen and here is her story:
I consider myself to be a very fortunate person. My husband and I have 2 wonderful children and 4 adorable grandchildren, with one more on the way. Because of his career, we moved frequently. By the time we ended up here in 2001, we had moved 17 times, lived in 8 states, and also spent 5 years in Switzerland. We had some awesome travel opportunities and got to know so many wonderful people/neighbors.
With our children & their families living in other states, and my husband & I both retired, I had to find some things to do. As a child, I learned by example about ‘the milk of human kindness’. My mother was a very active person and volunteered in many different arenas. I never really thought about it until I sat down to write this, but I guess I am just an example of how ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’.
I am blessed to have lots of energy, good health and the flexibility to spend my time doing things that I love. I spent several years building houses for Habitat for Humanity, both in Michigan and Mississippi, following Hurricane Katrina. My next opportunity was with an organization that provided equine therapy to the special needs population, both children & adults. It was there that I met Lucas and his family. He was just one of over 100 riders who came each week. He stopped coming to classes and I missed him. One day, I sent a note to his mom, asking how he was doing…and that was all it took. She educated me about the ‘SonRise’ program, shared videos, answered questions & asked if I’d like to become a member of the team.
I have a degree in education, and have worked with children of all ages throughout my adult life. I also had 6 years experience working with the disabled population at the barn. One would think that becoming part of Lucas’ team would have bean a no brainer for me. In reality, I was ‘welcomed’ to the team, immediately. Everyone is so kind, loving and supportive. But, I was intimidated by my own ‘shyness’ around Lucas. I think he remembered me from the riding classes. But, here I was entering ‘his world’, where he was the boss, and I felt this overwhelming need to be accepted by him. I had to learn to be like Lucas, and to try to understand what motivated him and his behaviors. In the beginning, he seldom looked at me, which was pretty intimidating. Some days we made baby steps, and some days no steps at all. But, fast forward to this time, which is almost a year, and together we have made huge strides. I wouldn’t have thought to touch him, in the beginning. Now he will come up to me and ask for tickles, hugs, and squeezes. We will sit next to each other on our balls, looking into the mirror, and I’ll see that he is staring at me, and there is a huge smile on his face and a twinkle in those beautiful eyes. He will ask for toys or books or other objects. We can roll around on the floor tickling, and we can play games pushing against each other’s feet. I am now comfortable in his world, and there are definitely times when he is firmly rooted there. But there are more and more days when he is giving the ‘green light’ to join in our world.
I believe that in most circumstances, happiness is a choice. All of my family and most of my close friends know about Lucas. They know that my time with Lucas in his playroom is ‘my happy place’. I am so thankful to Shannon for sharing this program with me and allowing me to become part of it. I know there will come a day when Lucas will recover from his autism, and we won’t be spending time in the playroom any longer, but we will always be family!