By Barb Arland-Fye
A grateful father’s video of an encounter between his teenage son with autism and a young employee at a grocery store appeared on Facebook and gave me hope.
As Jordan Taylor, 20, stocked a cooler at Rouses Market in Baton Rouge, La., he noticed 17-year-old Jack Ryan Edwards watching him with fascination. Jordan invited the teen to assist him, according to the CBS News report posted Aug. 1. Jack’s dad recorded the act of kindness in which Jordan patiently hands containers of juice to Jack, one at a time, to place in the cooler. Some 30 minutes later, Jordan thanks Jack and tells him: “All done. Good job. That’s perfect.”
Jordan couldn’t believe the publicity that followed the video’s posting. A tear rolled down his cheek as he explained to CBS News why he invited the teenager with special needs to have his day in the sun as a grocery stocker. “I was just happy that I could make somebody else happy,” Jordan told his interviewer. “I never pictured all of this would happen. I was just being me. That’s it. I just wanted to help somebody else out.” (View the video at: https://cbsn.ws/ 2LH2sw2)
That’s what Pope Francis practices and preaches every day: reach out to those on the margins of society, go out to the peripheries, to share the love of Christ with another person. Whatever religious beliefs Jordan may hold, he demonstrated what Christ’s followers are called to do. “…[T]he love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 25).
Families of persons with special needs cherish encounters like the one between Jordan and Jack because they allow our loved ones to experience acceptance and inclusion in the typical community. Persons with autism, especially, may act out in ways that frighten, or perplex others. Compassion goes a long way in modeling acceptable behavior.
In her response to the video, the mom of a 4-year-old nonverbal child with autism said that it made her cry. “I wish the entire world could understand and accept our kids like this. I think this makes me so emotional because I want to imagine a world where this is the rule rather than the exception and I don’t know if we will ever get there. The young man said it was no big deal, but it was a big deal.
“He made the conscious decision to be kind and it made a difference in the life of another person. In turn, the ripples have spread across the water touching so many lives. I wish we had a million more young gentlemen like this. He is changing the world for the better just by being here.”
After viewing the video, my husband Steve said he feels more convinced to contact a local supermarket chain to see whether he could serve as a job shadow for our adult son with autism. Colin loves the idea of receiving a paycheck for work but needs skill-building in navigating unexpected changes in routine and problem-solving.
In sharing the video on my Facebook page, I wrote: “What the world needs now are more kind-hearted, humble people like Jordan, the young grocery employee in this video!”
In our daily encounters, we also can stock the shelves with kindness.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).