By Barb Arland-Fye
“Love is patient. Love is kind … It bears all things … endures all things.” Paul’s advice in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians inspires me. Great words to live by, but oh how I’ve stumbled attempting to put them into practice! Take for example, this past weekend of the really big snowstorm. I’d made arrangements for my son Colin to attend Special Faith Saturday at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove.
He enjoys this monthly activity and Mass but requires much reassurance that it’s OK to alter his treasured Saturday routine (Mass in our parish and dinner at mom and dad’s house afterwards). This particular weekend, his younger brother Patrick agreed to join Colin at Mass at St. Ann’s and then head to our house for dinner. I would attend Mass at our home parish, Our Lady of the River in LeClaire, and pick up a parish bulletin for Colin. That’s the only way he’ll consent to go to another church — if he can have a parish bulletin from his church. When you’re autistic, you cling to even tiny threads of consistency, like a weekly parish bulletin.
Our delicately built house of cards began to waver with the weather forecast. A winter storm was headed for our region and it would last from Saturday night through Sunday night. My husband Steve and I made an executive decision: Patrick would not drive from his apartment in Cedar Rapids to the Quad-Cities to join Colin. We feared for our younger son’s safety with a prediction of 10 to 12 inches of snow. Patrick called Colin at St. Ann’s to let him know the bad news. Colin, who misses his brother terribly, started crying, according to Meg, who works for the agency that provides services to Colin. At home, working on a project, I received a call from Colin. “Mom, I’m crying,” he told me, which was obvious.
Fortunately, Steve had laid off from work because he was concerned about the weather’s potential impact on all of us. He headed for St. Ann’s, hoping to be an acceptable substitute for Patrick. Colin made it through Special Faith Saturday and even calmed down enough to proclaim the second reading at Mass and help with the blessing of throats afterwards.
Later that evening, when I returned home from Mass at Our Lady of the River, Colin asked: “Mom, did you bring me a bulletin?” Oh, my gosh! Distractions caused me to forget to pick up a bulletin. I didn’t want to drive the five miles to church and back, especially with the looming storm. But Colin had reached his limit for change and obsessed about the bulletin. He couldn’t even eat his dinner. I had run out of patience, brusquely apologized for my mistake and said he’d have to go without a bulletin. Colin, who misses some social cues and body language, knew I was angry. He stopped me cold, by saying plaintively, “Mom, you need to be patient with me.”
The topic at Colin’s Special Faith Saturday program had been patience!! A sheet of paper he had from the program read: “What is Patience? PATIENCE is the essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope and love.”
Special Faith Saturday participants had been asked: “How do you show Patience? What brings you the need for Patience?”
Gulp. In our interaction at dinner, Colin witnessed what patience is NOT. God sends me these little reminders often, as if to say, “Walk the talk.” Love is patient. Love is kind. Colin’s question reminded me to contemplate what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone with autism. Colin received his parish bulletin. We informed him that we might have to break our Sunday routine as well because of the snowstorm. This time, he accepted the change without complaint. That’s what love is.