I believe that Jill- little 5 years old Jill- has saved a life.
As we waited at the bus stop the other morning, my son in his stroller and Jill sitting on the metal bench, I was sort of keeping one eye on my kids and the other on the passing pedestrians. While Jack happily watched the cars go by and Jill sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again, I thought about how people tend to view Autism and those who have it.
One of the typical stereotypes that surround Autism is that people who fall on the spectrum tend to be loners, anti-social or just socially awkward. It’s a stereotype with some truth to it, but the fact is it isn’t entirely accurate.
On the one end of the scale, you have people on the Spectrum who are the loners. It’s part and parcel of the difficulties many individuals with A.S.D have with social interaction or appropriate social behaviour, after all. On the other end of the scale are those people you don’t hear as much about: the over-friendly types. They may still have problems with figuring out how to interact with their peers, or what is appropriate social behaviour in any given situation, but they tend to act like everybody is their friend. In these cases, they can be friendly with everyone to the point of being inappropriate or even dangerous.
It’s hard to tell a small child who has no concept of stranger danger that, sometimes, being friendly is not the right thing to do.
My kids fall on the latter scale, and it was that in particular that I was thinking about that morning.
Jill likes to talk to whomever she meets at the bus stop. I let her do it, despite it sometimes being hard to watch her, because I think it’s good for her to socialise with people- under controlled circumstances, anyway.
Besides, I’m not always sure where I should draw the line.
Anyway, back to my story.
It wasn’t long after we got to the bus stop that another woman entered the shelter. Jill, true to her usual self, immediately said hello.
I looked at the lady without saying anything; I just watched her interaction with my daughter. She gave Jill a little tolerant smile and said “hello” back. It was clear on her face, and in her voice, that the lady was struggling with something; she looked to be on the verge of tears, and barely holding it in. Without a second thought, Jill flashed the woman her patented thousand-watt smile and said: “I love you!”
The lady’s smile grew a hundred times brighter.
I wanted to tell Jill, just then, that she shouldn’t say those words to complete strangers.
I wanted to say she shouldn’t just throw those three words around, that she should save them for people she really cared about.
I looked at the woman’s brilliantly smiling face, and kept my mouth shut. It was obvious those three words, seemingly said at just the right time by the right person, meant something- at least to that lady.
There is no way, between the sun and the earth, that either of us could have known what the lady was thinking.
There is no way we could know for sure what she was considering doing but maybe, just maybe, a friendly little girl with a bright smile and the right words saved her life.