The surrounding wildlife overcame my senses until I heard a showstopping parrot screech “KaKAW!” I quickly turned around to see nature in action, but the real awe was my 15 year old cousin Trevor mimicking a parrot’s call. I hugged him with pride and laughter. Recognizing we were at the zoo is a huge accomplishment for him considering his autistic limitations. My absolute joy was shattered as I saw other visitors rudely scoff and push around us to get away from such a noisy burden. I never thought I could be ashamed while Trevor was so excited.
The following Sunday my family sat together in mass, Trevor in front of me. Throughout the entire procession Trevor continued to stare and smile at me all while mumbling “Hiya, Hiya, Hiya.” As much as I wanted to acknowledge his greeting, I refrained, worried about disrupting the prayerful aura. After mass, my closest friend brought up Trevor in conversation: “Yeah, it wasn’t as weird as I thought when I found out he was your cousin.” My friend never intended to be rude, but did he really think the situation was only acceptable because Trevor was my cousin? Whatever his perspective was, I knew my relation to Trevor did not justify autism and societal “irregularities.”
My continuous public outings with Trevor made me realize our society is uncomfortable by people, places, or situations that don’t perfectly mirror their everyday life. It took a few harsh encounters and judgements for me to understand what’s normal for me is not necessarily normal for everyone else. What I am proud of may not be the next person’s pride and joy. Instead of making myself miserable and upset about not everyone accepting my best friend for who he is, I had to learn to let go and forgive others for their remarks. Getting upset just because someone is uncomfortable with Trevor and his outbursts does not help anything. I learned it was my job to get involved in autism awareness and respect each person despite their limitations, autistic or not. Although many people will continue to make petty remarks and disrespectful comments towards any abnormality that stands in their way, I will always continue to show my pride in Trevor’s accomplishments, big or small, in public places.