You always say that you have gotten to see the world by following your girls around. But you must know, that without the support of you and Dad, we never would have made it this far, literally and figuratively. This year, especially, I feel your presence and seek your advice so often. I am constantly wishing you could be here.
It is not my job to be special education teacher or a behavioral specialist for children with autism, but I wish I had more of those skills all the time. I can do many things here very well, but I often feel like all of my weaknesses are your strengths. And so, I call you on Sunday evenings and tell you about the kids that have been the greatest challenges that week. And you give me suggestions about how to connect with them, new sensory activities, education strategies, and behavior modifications. And I do the best I can to put it all into practice, but it isn’t the same. I’m just not you.
So it is hard for me to express how happy it made me to be able to show you the BCC centers last week and introduce you to the staff and kids that you have heard me talk so much about for the last 8 months. I loved getting to watch you work with a little boy with autism that I have been telling you about. The one whom you suggested would benefit from a headband, which he totally did! You followed him around the room, imitating him (which usually means banging on things) and he loved it! He even made eye contact! And it made me feel so satisfied, so pleased, that you two had finally met.
Throughout the whole trip, I was so proud of the way you embraced every experience that was thrown at you. You helped weed the shamba in the middle of a hot sunny day. You learned to count in Swahili on the spot so you could play Uno with the young adults. You enthusiastically tried botabota rides (motorcycle taxis) and banana stew. You didn’t flinch during extended power outages. I loved going fabric shopping with you and walking down our street to buy vegetables and chapatis from the neighborhood stalls. Everything we did was a new experience for you and you loved every moment.
Mom, you say you were sometimes overwhelmed by the needs of the children and the challenges we face in providing services. But you never showed it. All I saw was how much potential you saw in every child you met and how much fun you had with them. And, Mom, you don’t know how hard I sometimes have to try in order to not be overwhelmed. It is so often your voice in my ear that helps me to remember that it is kindness, compassion, and effort that matters most. That the way the staff cares for the kids, and the way the kids care for each other, means more than anything. It is not the materials or setting one can provide, as much as the caring and willingness to do the best with what you have.
Love you, Mom. I can’t wait for our next adventure.
** My mother, Jane Buyer, has an MA in special education and currently works as a behavioral specialist for school-age children with autism. She, my father, and brother, just spent two weeks visiting me here in Moshi. She says that as she prepares for summer programs back in Pennsylvania that she will keep in mind her experiences here and the positive perspectives of everyone she met at BCC. **