Kind words of encouragement
Posted March 11, 2016on:
Some may tell you that people with Asperger’s lack empathy, but this is a misconception that could not be further from the truth. I recently had an experience that made me realize that it is possible for Aspies to be extremely empathetic, caring, and kind hearted.
As regular readers of my blog know, I recently said goodbye to a very special childhood mentor, teacher, and friend, Sally Maxwell. Last week, I lost yet another of my childhood mentors. Polly Dunn, who taught me dance from childhood through high school and who was a lifelong friend, passed away one week ago today.
After hearing the news of Polly’s death, I spent the next several hours calling, texting, and Facebook messaging many people from my hometown who knew Polly and mourning for her with them. All of a sudden, I got a message from my friend Kirsti. Kirsti is a 21-year-old with Asperger’s who I have had the pleasure of getting to know and forming a deep friendship with over the past two years. In the shock and sadness of Polly’s death, I had completely forgotten that I had promised Kirsti earlier in the day that I’d talk with her later that night.
I messaged Kirsti back, told her what had happened, and asked if we could possibly talk some other time. I also added that it was especially hard for me since it was so soon after Sally’s death.
Kirsti replied, “I know you feel sad now and want to cry, but instead you should be grateful that you had Sally and Polly in your life. And they loved you very much, and they wouldn’t want you to be sad. You need to be strong and thank God for having them in your life. And remember, someday you will see them again, but in the meantime, they want you to live a happy and healthy life while you are still on this earth.”
I was truly touched by Kirsti’s words. She was able to make me feel better and put things in perspective better than anyone else I had talked to that night. I thanked her, and she was eager to cheer me up and make me feel better. She changed the subject to a topic that she knew was going to make me happy, and thanks to her, I was able to smile and laugh again.
So, the next time someone tells you that people with Asperger’s lack empathy, tell them to think again. Aspies struggle with many things; however, they are capable of feeling emotions very deeply. I have seen proof of this many times with Kirsti. Despite her challenges, she also has many strengths. She is a gifted writer and has a great imagination. Not only is she good with words, but she is also adept at writing fiction about situations that she has not experienced herself. That is something that I have never been able to do as well as she does.
All of us have strengths and weaknesses, and I am grateful that I had people in my life like Sally and Polly who helped me realize my strengths and that I am so much more than my weaknesses. I hope that I can have a positive impact on Kirsti and other young people like her as well.