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Paying it Forward

It’s early afternoon and I’m cruising comfortably 37,000 feet somewhere over California on my way home to Indianapolis.  For those of you that know me well, “cruising comfortably” in any plane is not typical for me – I hate  flying. Hate. It.  It downright terrifies me.  I can’t tell you how many choruses of “Jesus Loves Me” have gone through my head over the years on the slightest bit of a bumpy takeoff or landing. Maybe there were even a couple of verses today…

But I think the anxiety was at least a bit less today because of the week that has lead up to it, and how anxious I am to get home and see all my boys.

The week started with a trade show for work that went well.  Although that was great, it was the conference I attended after that really made the week wonderful.  I was in Las Vegas for work (first time ever to see the strip – what an experience!), and then went to the LA area for a TACA leadership conference.  It’s not like I don’t have far too much to do right now between work and the kids, but when I got an email asking if I could attend to be able to help the Indiana chapter, I felt I had to find a way to make it happen.

Now, I’m betting that most of you are wondering what I’m talking about – what is TACA?  TACA is Talk About Curing Autism (www.tacanow.org) – families with autism helping families with autism, one child and one family at a time.  It was that mission statement – helping families – that led me to the Indiana chapter once we thought we knew the  diagnosis Sam would receive.  The women I met at that first meeting and have gotten to know so much better since then have been a lifeline for more parents than can be counted.  And TACA as an organization has touched the lives of close to 28,000 families.  Over the last year I’ve met just a handful of them, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “TACA saved my life” or “TACA saved my kid’s life.”  And they meant it.  Quite literally.  You see, there’s nothing that sucks the life out of you like hearing that your child has this nebulous thing called autism.  And being told they don’t know why.  And that he won’t get better. That there is nothing you can do about it.  What TACA offers to parents first on this journey called autism is hope.  Hope that there are things we can do to help our children.  That they can get better.  And sometimes even recover.  And most of all that we are not alone in the fight.  There are many autism organizations out there – some focus on research, some focus on advocacy, some focus on public awareness.  But TACA focuses on families. Meeting each one where they are, and providing the support and resources to get through each day.  Because sometimes getting through just one day is all you can manage.

So I spent three days in sunny Southern California (yes, it was nice to have the sun – Pete texted me pictures of the snow, and I sent him pictures of the beach) meeting the brave women who are responsible for bringing TACA to their states – from Hawaii to Georgia to New Jersey and in between.  These are brave women because of their everyday battles with autism.

Some have stories of seizures and mitochondrial disfunction.  Some have stories of food allergies and aggression.  But all have stories of progress.  And some have stories of recovery.  And all have stories of hope.  Hope for health, and hope for happiness.  And hope that their children’s futures have not yet been written.

But they’re even braver in my eyes because they are putting themselves out there every day guiding, mentoring, and bringing that hope to families in their areas.  They volunteer their time, their lives and their hearts so that families on this terrible journey do not have to be alone.  I wish like hell that we would never have had a reason to meet each other.  But we did. And I am so grateful to have found them.

I know many of you have heard (and read) me say that I believe God puts us all on a path – we may not know why, and we may not often understand what we’re supposed to do on that path. Although I don’t believe he brought autism to our family, I do think that, once we were hit with it, he put me in a place to meet these women and discover TACA for a reason.  As much as that reason was to provide support and guidance to our family, I think it was just as much to tell me that I need to be paying that forward and helping other families.  I mean, geez, look at the reason I started this blog initially so many years ago – it was about enriching the lives of families.  My heart on that point has never changed.  The world has just taken on some new … flavors …  So, I’m going to be trying to do just that – helping families through TACA.  I may not have the time to try to help 28,000.  But if just one comes to know they’re not alone on this journey – I think that’s the one on my path that I was supposed to meet.

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