By Barb Arland-Fye
Crock pots filled to the brim with homemade chicken noodle and other varieties of soup beckoned participants of the “Peace Soup” Lenten program at St. Boniface Hall in Clinton.
At the podium, Gabriela Egging reflected, “This year’s Peace Soup theme is ‘Amazing Graces’ and perhaps a subtitle would read: ‘Living life’s obstacles as opportunities.’ So we are exploring the realities of what those obstacles can mean in our lives,” added Gabriela, a Peace Soup Committee member. On that night, Feb. 23, my family had been invited to share the amazing graces in our lives.
First though, Gabriela described how the Benevolent Society, the charity to be blessed with the offerings from this year’s Peace Soup program, serves the community’s poor and unemployed. My husband, Steve, appreciated learning about a charitable organization he wasn’t familiar with.
As all of us rose from our table to get soup, my younger son, Patrick, whispered: “Mom, I think I’ll pass. I don’t care for pea soup.” I smiled. He’d misconstrued the program’s name with the type of soup to be served!
Steve and I recognized familiar faces at the Peace Soup program that night because our life as a family began in the Clinton area. Still, I could detect nervousness in three of our family members. Only Colin, our older son, appeared relaxed as we faced the audience to share our story of life with autism.
We took questions from the audience to encourage spontaneity. Someone asked whether Colin understood humor. As I attempted to answer that question, Patrick took the mike from me to get the point across. “Colin, we’re going to I-Hop for dinner Sunday.” Colin (who prefers Village Inn) looked at Patrick and responded, “Really? Is that a joke?”
Another question: “Where do you see the graces?” Memories rose to the surface. Now we can look back with humor on our experiences, some of them painful at the time. We know God accompanies us on this journey, even if we don’t sense God’s presence in that moment. The realization always comes, that’s the grace.
Reflecting on the evening, Steve said, “Colin is grace because he is a gift from God to us. You sit back and you think about the things that happen and the grace that comes from them.”
Patrick said he felt the audience’s appreciation for our family. “People really seemed to care. The questions people asked were very good. Someone asked, ‘Can (Colin) play cards.’ It showed that they were paying attention, that Colin does have intelligence. Maybe that’s something we take away from that night. Maybe we can teach him to play cards,” Patrick added.
“Families with autism do the very best they can to savor the joys and challenges of life while striving to take one day at a time,” I told the Peace Soup gathering. “They may depend more on routine than other families for the sake of their loved one with autism. They can feel a sense of isolation at times because the unusual behavior of the individual with autism may set them apart in public.
“Be willing to reach out in friendship to families of an individual with autism. Make room for them in the pews of your churches and social activities. Know, too, that families, as people of faith living with autism, experience many moments of grace because we trust that God is acting in our lives.”
Peace Soup is held Tuesdays during Lent at 6 p.m. at St. Boniface Center, sponsored by Prince of Peace Pax Christi and Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton. Take the opportunity to experience this program. It is an amazing grace.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)