I hope the festive season is all that you hoped for, that santa was kind and loved ones (where possible) were near. I have a story that I’d like to share, it’s my interpretation of what Christmas means and it doesn’t involve a Mary, or a donkey – it does however involve an awesome thirteen year old called Zoe and some light up Polar Bears.
Let’s set the scene…it’s mid December and just before the real FC jumps in his sleigh and works some serious overtime the wonderful local Lions charity come around our village with a santa representative on a sleigh (back of a van) with loud music, lights and elves that collect change but also give the children gifts. Last year my little man adored it but sadly for all sorts of reasons the event wasn’t happening this year.
Enter the heroine of this story, Zoe. I’ve never met Zoe but I have read Facebook messages from her mum on our village page. Zoe has the gift of Autism which means traditions are sacred to her daily structure and the Lions charity event formed part of her Christmas preparations. However it wasn’t the disruption to herself that was the cause of her angst, she was devastated that the children in our village would miss out…
In her words: ‘the children won’t get flutterbys (excited) if santa doesn’t come or give an early present. Mummy can we make a grotto in our garden? I will buy the presents myself with my pocket money and the children can come here to get flutterbys…I don’t want the children to be sad.’
Zoe took her own pocket money and bought lots of toys, she wrapped them and then a few days before Christmas, she (via her Mum on the Facebook page) invited the children of the village to her front garden, lights ( some seriously cute polar bears), sweets and a gifts were on offer and best of all (in my little mans eyes) a snow machine.
Her Mum mean while was worried that nobody would attend. We did and so did many others. Unfortunately we arrived too early to meet Zoe as she was overwhelmed by the people and the noises and stayed in her room, popping in and out when she could. For Zoe the event that was a few hours in length caused sleepless nights and an abundance of anxiety. However, an update on the Facebook site later that evening thanking everyone for coming and mentioned that she did come down, stayed and even spoke to some people. That’s seriously courageous.
I’m blessed to work with teenagers aged eleven to sixteen and they often have a bad reputation. I’ve also worked with Autistic children for most of my working life. The behaviour issues and negativity of the condition are well known rather than the potential they offer. At a time when people are consumed by wants and desires; Zoe made the choice to give to complete strangers, she has taught my family about love, compassion and giving which is what the season is really about, isn’t it?
The event also meant that Zoe had to defeat the constraints that Autism can have in order to be part of the event, she was resilient and in my opinion brave. For one evening she over came the fear, the sensory overload and she won. She won my heart and she taught me and my son the true meaning of Christmas.
*Thank you to Zoe and her Mum for letting me share this tale with you all.