(Before I begin, I did ask this young man’s permission to share the story and his picture and his response was “Absolutely”).
Last weekend at Senior Ball I was waiting to clean up as the dance winded down when a young man approached me and caught me off guard.
Then he proceeded to touch my heart deeply, and remind me of what is truly most important about nights like Senior Ball.
“My name is Noah”, he said. “And I have autism. I’m not usually included in things and I don’t go to a lot of things. But I wanted to tell you something. Your daughter and her friend group included me tonight and I wanted to say thank you.”
All of a sudden it flashed back to me.
Earlier in the evening my daughter had texted me “Come do the 360 camera with my friends. They want to do it with you”. So I went over and got in line to join them. As we were waiting, Noah got in line behind all of us. He was quiet and he was by himself.
Boy did he look snazzy! Shiny suit coat and an incredible top hat. He looked so sharp.
We did the 360 photo camera and then two of my daughters friends (shout out Layla and Milly!!) realized Noah was alone and asked him to join them on the camera platform for the special photo and he did.
Afterwards they were all giving him high fives and telling him what a great job he did. Then one of them asked him to take a picture with some of their group, and he joined right in, striking a great pose.
The moment was brief and simple…. But also meaningful and meant to be.
You see, Noah came the dance alone and didn’t have a group to take pictures with. He didn’t show up with a tribe or a crew or a posse of friends.
He came by himself.
Standing there, with tears running down my face, Noah continued sharing.
“Your daughters friend group took a picture with me tonight, and it was the only picture I took with a group of people. And it meant a lot to me so I wanted to say thank you.”
“Noah” I said “You are amazing”.
“No” he replied “They are amazing, because they made this a night I will never forget”.
There was not a dry eye around me. I was speechless. Like Noah, it’s a moment I will never forget.
And it had nothing to do with my daughter or her friends .
I was in complete awe of what it took for Noah to not only come to the dance, by himself, but to put himself out there and join in this special night. He had a lions heart of courage. Then, to have the bravery to come and tell me how much that moment meant to him, was the icing on top.
I share the story not because I want praise or accolades for what my daughter and her friends did. To be honest…I don’t think they did anything extraordinary. I think they simply did what we all should do: They included somebody who was alone. They were aware of the people around them. They reached out and they thought of someone besides themselves.
They did what I would hope someone would do for my kid.
We throw the word inclusivity around – it’s a buzz word today. But we often forget the value of it. It’s a universal feeling, and all of us- regardless of our struggles or our disabilities or our challenges- deserve to feel wanted, included, and part of something. Everyone deserves to feel seen, to have our presence acknowledged and to feel our humanness.
I know that at the dance on Saturday they crowned a Senior Ball King, but in my mind, the true King of the dance wore a shiny suit coat and a top hat.