My Walking Buddy

Today, I was honored to be able to walk with over 30,000 others in my Bay Area city. It was refreshing to see so many people of different backgrounds, colors, and creeds come together to defend women and human rights. One of the best parts, though, was one of the individuals I got to walk with.

One of my friends moonlights as a respite worker for a former client of mine (I was the Program Supervisor for his case). He is 5 years old and autistic. His parents could not attend the Women’s March, but they agreed for my friend to take him with her. I hadn’t seen him in about 2 years, so I didn’t expect him to be too friendly with me. Still, I decided to stick close with her, her father, baby sister, and the boy in case they needed help during the march.

The boy handled the march beautifully. He made sure he was holding either mine or my friend’s hand as we walked. My friend explained that he starts blowing when he is getting overwhelmed (his variation of taking deep breaths). At one point, this happened while she was busy with her sister and could not hold him. I held my hands out to him, waiting to see if he was willing. After a second, he lifted his arms, and I picked him up. As long as he knew my friend was nearby, the boy snuggled into me and smiled.

We had lunch awhile later, and I sat with him while the others picked up the food. The two of us pointed at and talked about the different signs displayed on the wall (the restaurant has a 60’s theme), and I broke down “man” versus “woman” to him when he pointed to a picture of a woman and asked if she was a man. Looking back on it now, I believe he had in fact been processing the march in his own unique way, and was sharing his observations (like the fact that there were a LOT of women).

When he got his hot dog, he kept pushing it away. I noticed him gingerly touching the bun, and I asked, “Oh, bread off?” He responded, “Bread off, please.” I removed the bun, my friend put his hot dog on a fork, and he happily ate it.

As I walked back home about 20 minutes later after a goodbye hug and cheek kiss from the boy, I recalled how others responded to him. No one at the march gave him a dirty look if he accidentally stepped on their shoes. No one looked at him strange when he jumped up and down in excitement. In fact, people smiled at him…and they weren’t the “oh, poor you,” types of smiles. They were the “gotta love kids” smiles. I think that he felt that, because for the vast majority of the march, he was smiling and content (the only exception was when he got hungry).

I didn’t really have an endpoint to this, I just wanted to share a story that touches on this kiddo’s first time at a march, how calm he was, and how he charmed everyone around him. 🙂

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