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Finding Light: Embracing the Uniqueness in Each of Us

February 27, 2017

 by Sarena James


Sarena, Raphael and Grant at The 2017 Beaux Affair

There’s a certain soundtrack that often accompanies our journey. A soundtrack spontaneously recorded by passersby who don’t know our story.

Their collective whispers, gasps, and disdainful sighs (looped in judgment and ignorance) play behind us and in front of us. Surround sound. At times their volume is much louder than the tantrum being thrown, and in those moments Grant is so visible. Visible for his screaming. Visible for running away. Visible for creating a scene. What’s not visible though, the reason behind it all.

I suppose everyone has a happy place. An address where their smile lives and their laughter can always be found galloping free. Grant has his. He loves google maps. His sense of direction is intriguing and phenomenal, and for us, educational. (He’s actually planning our next road trip this coming Spring). He loves riding his mountain bike, accompanied by his faithful friend, the wind. He loves asking questions (his curiosity has perfect attendance) and there are days I have to remind myself that there was a time he didn’t speak. (Really? Yes.) He loves salmon with a teriyaki glaze, and rice pilaf. He loves haircuts and their intricate shapes. He studies them and uses shaving cream to recreate those same looks with his hands. His mohawk…awesome!  He loves playing at the beach and the choice of being in the cool water or standing on the warm sand sends his smile sailing. He loves his father, his mother, his sisters, his family. We love him too. He loves his teachers, his therapists, his mentors. He loves construction paper and glue, colored pencils and crayons, as they allow him to create endlessly. He loves dressing up in suits and ties and suspenders and lace-up oxfords, and every now and then he’ll spray his father’s cologne in celebration of his dapperness. That’s what I see; some of the beautiful things that I see, and on yesterday, I saw something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

It’s hard not to cry. In moments like these, just hard not to cry.


Grant introducing his father as speaker for 2017 Beaux Affair Rites of Passage Ceremony

I’ve lost count of the number of times that Raphael has spoken for programs and events, in which I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of introducing him. Not today. February 26, 2017 did something that no other date, to date, could do. It would be the day that Grant would introduce his father. He typed it out ON HIS OWN the night before. He spoke it loud and clear. (He also proudly belted out the creed for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Club of Summerville. It’s a wonderful mentor organization of which Grant is a member). Goodness on overflow!

Today would also be the day that I am reminded of the presence of some amazingly good people who willingly walk this journey with us. To those on the Charleston Youth Leadership Beaux Affair committee, thank you. During my husbands address, he encouraged the audience to drive out darkness and negativity by simply, letting their light shine.  He added that, “without light the colors of the rainbow spectrum cannot be fully appreciated.”

Cal Morrison, one of the elders in the group, approached us with the idea of involving Grant in the program. He is well aware of the challenges on the autism spectrum that we as a family face, but still believed that Grant’s contributions could count. His words, “We need Grant.”

Thank you. You build, uplift, guide, and cover young men who are full of intelligence, promise, and light, and you took the time to see my son not for his disability, but his unmistakable ability. Thank you.

img_20170226_201558_01That would have been enough, that goodness would have been enough, but you didn’t stop there. You magnanimously selected my child to be an honorary beau. Grant, our only boy, often remarks how he wants a brother. Thank you for giving him 15 of them!  Brothers. Brothers to look up to. Brothers who shake your hand. Brothers who ask you how you’re doing. Brothers who wait to hear your answer. Brothers who say job well done and yes, next time, you can do even better. Brothers who will look out for you. Help you. Guide you. Hold you, accountable. Brothers. Grant has an abundance of brothers.

What an awesome program. What an awesome day. What an awesome reason to keep believing!

The genuine applause and cheers, the audible encouragement, the good surround sound; the kind that makes your heart dance in gratitude. The entire atmosphere was an endless refill of goodness. Raphael once said that it’s good to be understanding with those who are genuinely trying to understand you. Indeed, yes indeed. Understanding. Perspective. Sensitivity.

I see you son. And others are willing to see your unique light as well. You’re making a new soundtrack now where hope, hard-work and forward-movement produce measurable progress. Too many times people only see you long enough to unsee you because it’s uncomfortable and it takes more effort on their part to reach you. But now there are so many others who think you’re worth finding and getting to know.

You are enough. Unchanged, you’re still enough. Let’s dance to the freedom of that soundtrack. We see you, son. Shine on… 



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