I spent a day volunteering at the Autism Resource Center of Central Massachusetts’ camp in Harvard. My assignment was to staff the waterfront, moving and launching kayaks. The highlight of the day came when campers paddled the circumference of Bear Lake and I got to go tandem with Joey.
Joey , an avid Sox fan, told me that he weighed 75 pounds.About to go to high school at 14, he probably exaggerated by about 10 pounds. It is hard for me to imagine him this fall among towering upper classmen.
Peering intently through watersplashed prescription goggles with his “B” cap clamped over his forehead, Joey’s pipe cleaner arms never stopped paddling except to splash the pretty lifeguards in their boat. With the two of us pushing hard, we won the race back to shore by “exactly 40 seconds, ” according to Joey’s calculations.
While getting to know each other on the water, he told me that he had been a pitcher, then a catcher, and now an umpire. My uneducated assumption was that his small frame prevented him from keeping up on the field as other kids got bigger. I imagined that he’d been gently pushed aside to a non-playing role like a team manager or mascot.
On shore after our victory, Joey ’s mom set me straight- he is in great demand as an umpire. His talent, perhaps related to Asperger’s syndrome , is that Joey unerringly sees the strike zone, the geometry of home plate, the black & white of balls and strikes.
While teens of all ages struggle to find any work, Joey cleared $500 and bought a computer.
After only an hour together, my feelings about Joey did a 180- from empathy for all he is about to face- to respect for all he is about to accomplish. I’m sure he’ll be seeing a lot of great things in the years ahead. ~Mike M.