I have a guest blogger this week, Jacob Ugljesa, host Beyond the Pew. Jacob sat with me a few weeks ago and started a conversation about our family and our journey with autism and how we try to educate, encourage and support our daughter on this journey. I hope you enjoy Jacob’s insight and words of encouragement.

“I’m sorry about him.” 

My wife and I heard this mother say numerous times. We were waiting in line at the shop. The lady’s son had started talking to us and asking us questions. We noticed this made the mother uncomfortable which lead to her making excuses for him, telling him several times to stop interrupting us. The young man was clearly interested in what my wife was purchasing. He turned to me and asked me several questions about what I was holding too. Again, his mother continued to apologise while telling him to stop. 

I wondered afterwards if there was a reason why she felt uncomfortable. Did someone previously say something inappropriate to her about her son? Does she feel like he is causing us problems because he is curious about something? I’ll never know. Yet I know that for a lot of people, encountering someone different to themselves can be confronting. We find it easy to avoid those different to us until of course, we are the one people are avoiding then we notice.

I started Beyond the Pew podcast with my friend Nathan (who produces and beautifies the episodes) because we wanted to spotlight people’s stories who are making the world better. The episode with Jeramy and Jenna we recorded spoke about parenting children who have autism and the experience of people with autism. This experience at the shop would not have stood out to me before my conversation with Jeramy. I feel more aware of the challenges facing people with autism and their families.

I am thankful that Jeramy was so willing to share his experiences with me and helped me feel confident rather than concerned. As a result of spending time with Jeramy, I have been inspired to act and think differently. Here are a few ways I want to be intentional to care for those in the community different from the “typical.”

1. Any time I get the chance I will encourage and support parents who are raising children considered atypical. Whether through affirming words, encouraging smiles or just an accepting presence, I hope I can lighten the load of the already heavy burden of parenting.
2. I want to value all people by friendship and understanding. When I realise someone acts or speaks different from what is expected, I can use this as an opportunity to be stretched and to understand rather than return to what is comfortable and miss out.
3. A parent of a child with autism doesn’t need to hide away, apologise or feel guilty for their child’s atypical behaviour. We can’t burden parents more than they already are. We must support and empower them.

And if I could be candid for a moment, as a Christian, I care about the plight of the “underdogs” because I believe that is who God chooses to identify with. I follow the lead of Jesus who spent time with the social outcasts. Why did Jesus do that? Because he saw infinite value in all people, including those society called worthless. I want to show young people like Jenna that God is atypical (to play on that word if I can) meaning God is so different from what we love to classify as normal. You know what? I’m glad God is like that.

If you haven’t got to check out the episode with Jeramy, I encourage you to check it out in the links below

Spotify – https://spoti.fi/2KHyMgm
Google – https://bit.ly/2Mnyayu
iTunes – https://apple.co/309YJdA

Written by, Jacob Ugljesa.