She smiled and nodded, but she couldn't have known I wasn't thinking about gun control, but a day way back in the August before my first grade year.
I can remember it clearly: sitting in the back of the ice cream parlor and waiting to meet my "buddy", she was new to my grade school and I was asked to help show her around and help her make friends. I remember, for some reason, thinking to myself, 'This is a day that will change my life forever'.
I couldn't have been more right.
The girl I would meet that day I would befriend and bring into my small group of two other friends. We were all close until seventh grade, when Amy (not her real name, but the girl from the ice cream parlor), decided to turn my best friends against me. They would run away and call it a game. Then Amy began to turn the rest of my school against me. The worst day happened in the fall of my seventh grade year when I walked into math class and my name was written all over the board accompanied by the words 'the Camel', which, Amy explained, was the tallest animal she could think of with the smallest brain. The teacher wasn't there that day, just a sub who was new and had no clue the comments were directed at me. That day, at lunch, I didn't eat but went into the bathroom and cried because I felt so alone and I had no one to sit with at lunch. I knew my Asperger's made it hard for me to made friends, and I vowed, there, on the floor of the bathroom, that I would never let this happen to anyone else like me, if I could prevent it.
When I went to high school, I will be honest, I did not trust anyone. Amy had taught me to choose friends very carefully, if at all. However, all of that changed in freshman PE, when I met a girl who, like me, was injured and couldn't participate. We bonded quickly and she introduced me to her group of friends who accepted me immediately. Even when they knew about my Asperger's, they still chose to befriend me. They are the most amazing friends I could have ever asked for, they don't know how much they have changed my life, and I owe them so much.
I never forgot my vow on that day in seventh grade, and I decided to try to made friends with Aspies like me. They, too, have enriched my life beyond words. They are gracious, kind, and unbelievably brilliant. I feel as close to them as my siblings due to the bond we share.
What I said to myself over a decade ago is now true. Amy has changed my life forever. She brought me pain and sadness, but she taught me what real kindness and real friendship means. Because of her, I was able to make real friends who I trust and Amy also helped me find my calling in life, to work with kids on the autism spectrum. Even if you are having a tough time making friends, Aspies, don't worry, one day this will be a distant memory and, like me, you may actually thank the person who hurt you because they will shape the person you become. That August day before first grade changed my life forever, and I truly mean it when I say, "Thank you Amy."