It is tempting to think of big sweeping changes as we consider our work of helping a society learn to make space for everyone. Big plans for our initiative were explored and crafted out of our hearts and minds 9 months ago in New Delhi as we imagined ideas towards inclusiveness would spread across India, policy would shape itself around such ideas, and we would be a part of the change movement that is a part of India in so many diverse areas. Indeed, it is an exciting time to be doing this work, in this place and at this time. As we re-gather with our planning group nearly a year later, I am reflecting on all of the work that has been done, and discerning which is of biggest import.
We know that for ideas to take root and change to happen, work must be done on all 4 levels – societal, community, family, and individual. It is a bit of a rush to think about the impact one’s work may have on the very fabric of society, and indeed, the change agentry work being done alongside The Hans Foundation may have just such an impact. However, the impact of a good idea that has the capacity to change the lives of an entire group of people must resonate in the lives of individual people and their families for us to grasp the tender core at the heart of the matter. For, in the long run, and also in the short run, the experience and impacts of having a disability in Indian society is experienced by individual people.
A few months ago, a young man of 21 years of age gathered with a small group of people who care deeply for him to think about his future. He is a man who speaks little, and many would say he is impacted by autism in significant ways. He was accompanied by his parents, his teachers, and a number of others interested in beginning to explore and create a positive and possible future alongside him. A number of commitments were made, as we imagined this young man developing a network of friendships which will expand his resources, and help him transition into the role of an adult son, with his own relationships. A vision of a young man who is has a bit of an adventurous spirit – who we can see as a hiker, a trekker, a music lover with an awesome set of headphones and an eclectic playlist. A man who has friends and relationships with people outside of his family, and has a bit of a life outside their warm and strong family foundation.
At the conclusion of our work together, his mother spoke movingly of how it was a risk thinking about her son having a real future, and how hope had stirred again inside her. A month or so ago, she sent me a quick email because she could not wait to share the news until our next planning circle meeting. Her son had spent 30 minutes visiting with a neighbor without either of his parents present. A first in many, many years. A small thing, but not so small either. It speaks to the potential for the world to shift just a bit to make some space for this young man.
I will hold this gem of an idea with me over the next few days of high-order planning and trying to work on a systemic level. It only matters if we can get the world to move a bit.