I’m the kind of person who sews every part of my life together like a precisely measured and prepared quilt. Things in my life have to make sense. There is a reason behind my every action, and it typically relates to the question, “What’s in it for me?” Coming into Team Filbert in the fall, I had a plan. I would get community service hours for class credit while doing something that interests me. It made sense; it was practical. Then, at the end of the semester, I was presented with the opportunity to do RPM with Filbert. It would be a bigger commitment and a lot more training than what I had planned. It didn’t necessarily make sense, but I took the opportunity anyway, and my life has been changed ever since.
Filbert is teaching me that life doesn’t need to make sense all the time. I can do things just for the sake of doing them. I can do something because it makes sense for another person’s life. I can cry happy tears for another person’s accomplishments and achievements, and in a nonsensical way, it all makes sense.
Before RPM, I would say Filbert’s life was upside down and our efforts to help merely helped him balance in the handstand position. Through RPM and other focused efforts, we are now slowly helping him turn his life right side up. I can now see the physical implications of his growth toward normalcy. Through RPM, we can “hear” his voice, enjoy his humor, and give him an education. Before working with Filbert, I had no awareness of the implications of autism. I was nonjudgmental and open toward people with autism, but I simply had no idea what it meant. Filbert has taught me that people with autism cannot be grouped; each person has their own personality behind the autistic body, and his personality shines bright. Filbert has a love for learning, a mind filled with deep thoughts, a heart for God, a contagious smile, and a desire to be always improving. He is nothing short of inspirational. It has been a privilege to be along for the ride, witnessing the miracles within Filbert daily.
One of my favorite memories with Filbert was during a lesson about Abraham Lincoln. At the end of the lesson, I wrote, “Abraham Lincoln was known for putting an end to the Civil War. I want to be known for ________________.” Filbert spelled out “sitting,” a word that made sense within our relationship. During lessons, Filbert stands on his chair, runs across the room, or slides off his chair only to crawl out from under the table. This response was our first open-ended communication and it meant the world to me. Filbert wants what I want; he simply can’t control his disobedient body. It meant so much that he spelled out a word that was pertinent to our time together. While he still typically does not sit through the whole lesson, I have found that sitting is not what is important. What is important is Filbert’s desire to sit and learn. After the lesson, I sat on the floor with Em with smiles from ear to ear and tears in our eyes. We shared this moment of joy for Filbert’s newfound method of communication and his clever, handpicked responses.
Filbert has taught me to put my heart into relationships with others. I am a very logical person, and before getting to know him, I could sympathize, knowing and understanding what that person was going through. I am learning through this experience to do more than sympathize; I am acquiring the ability to empathize, feeling what others feel rather than just comprehending. It is a vulnerable thing to put your heart into relationships, but I am discovering that sometimes, it is worth the risk. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” My experience with Filbert has taught me to do this.
My time with Filbert is like a zigzagged, colorful, asymmetrical quilt piece that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of my orderly and matching quilt pieces of life experiences. It doesn’t make sense and I love it that way. I have learned to give up control of my life-quilt making to God. He is the potter, shaping my life, and He is the quilter, carefully sewing all of my experiences together. Filbert has a radiant quilt that warms the hearts of so many people. I am blessed to be a part of his intricate and ever-growing quilt.