I'm struck that The Gray Center’s work of globally promoting social understanding is a bit like our class project. Gray Center staff and board members, and all of our friends around the world—including everyone reading this article—is actively sowing seeds of compliments, encouragement, support, information, instruction, and understanding through our words and actions. Yet many of us rarely get to enjoy the fruits of our own labor. Consider this:
-A specialist delivers a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for an individual, but does not get to follow that person's progress beyond one or two office visits.
-A teacher works with a child for one year, and then passes that individual on to another grade and another teacher.
-A therapist assists an individual through a difficult time, and once goals have been reached, his or her work is considered finished.
-A psychologist or other professional sees an individual only periodically, and doesn't have the time with his or her current caseload to be involved in many other aspects of that person's life.
-A grandparent spends time with his or her grandchildren, showers love and affection on them, and then sends them home for a short or long time again.
-A child or older person develops a friendship with a peer, only to have that friend move to a new city, school, classroom, or workplace.
-A parent works hard to instill decent morals, work ethic, academic skills, and socialization in his or her children. Yet this parent also deals with the day-to-day challenges inherent with raising children, and may have difficulty identifying progress or potential.
At times, it may be discouraging to realize that although we continually strive to promote social understanding, we might not be able to see the results in each person with whom we live and work. Yet here's what I find exciting: This newsletter is being sent to thousands of people around the globe. Each of them is sowing seeds of social understanding. That means that all around us, we are able to reap the rewards of other people's labor! We can actively look for the beauty that others have sown: kids that are sensitive to others' needs, parents who are sympathetic to a teacher's workload and responsibilities, administrators who take time to listen to and appreciate the children in their schools, diagnosticians who recognize the potential in each patient, regardless of the presence of a diagnosis, teachers who are flexible enough in the classroom to accommodate the variety of needs and strengths possessed by their students, employees who demonstrate a good work ethic, etc..
Promoting social understanding is extremely important, whether we get to reap the rewards of our efforts, or whether we enable someone else to do so. Let's keep planting and transforming as we “nourish, grow, connect, and contribute!”