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Once a person really belongs: Sarah Stup speaks out about community

by Mary Mazzoni on April 13, 2013

Rare is the voice – gentle, strong, and true – that opens wide both mind and heart – like petals of a single flower.

Sarah Stup touches truth in us.

Sarah is an acclaimed poet, essayist, and author of children’s books.

She writes to “build a new exotic garden where worlds can meet and differences are not feared”.

Last week, Sarah wrote an open letter about community – in response to the senseless, heartbreaking death of Robert Saylor, who lived and died in her hometown. With her blessing, it appears in full here.

Sarah’s letter

Our community is feeling horrible about the death of Robert Ethan Saylor, a young man out to enjoy his recreation, but who could not seem to conform to rules that perhaps made no sense to him.

I am disabled with autism, and I, too, struggle with breaking society’s rules. Often I make strange noises and actions that I sometimes cannot control.

Our families and schools know that these minor differences can be accommodated, and that nothing different is fearful once a person really belongs.

Below are some ideas I have as we join you out in our community. Find us. We are real people inside our disabilities who can be real friends and citizens.

9 Ways to support our citizens with disabilities

1.  Smile at us and those with us to make us feel comfortable.

2.  Give us time to adjust to our new environment and begin to feel calmer.

3.  Please have patience because we experience the world differently from you, and, therefore, we may react differently.

4.  Try to ignore sounds or actions we may make that you may find strange.

5.  Remember that differences may be physical, cognitive, and also behavioral.

6.  What you see as rudeness may not be how we intended our actions. Sometimes our bodies do not listen to our instructions.

7.  Please portray us as real people to your young children, not clowns to stare at or laugh about. We have feelings.

8.  Know we are doing the best we can – just as you are.

9.  We like to feel we belong and ask not to be seen as trespassers. We are all God’s children striving to live in harmony.

Say “yes” to our belonging to the community, and “no” to hiding us away in your lonely corners!

Your friend with autism,

Sarah Stup

who types to speak

Your turn

Sarah challenges us to create a home – a community – a world – where every person really belongs.

What are your thoughts about her letter?  How can we create true community? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

And please share Sarah’s letter with others.

You can find out more about Sarah and her writings and advocacy work at her website.

May we daily sow seeds of a new exotic garden, where worlds can meet and differences are not feared!

Photo credit: John Hess

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharisa Kochmeister April 16, 2013 at 7:56 am

Thank you for your words.

Reply

Mary Mazzoni May 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thank you for your note, Sharisa.
These words from Sarah touch my heart, too.

Reply

Jean June 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

Can someone tell me what happened to Robert Saylor? I am a retired special education teacher, and it was my pleasure to have autistic students in my classroom. Why can’t people accept everyone, regardless of their differences?

Reply

Mary Mazzoni June 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Thanks for your comment, Jean. Here is a link to a story in Huffington Post about Rober Saylor’s tragic death. http://huff.to/13BvYD2
I cannot really answer your question – because I don’t know what it is about humanity that resists accepting other people. May we “be the change we want to see in the world” – in our own words and deeds – and in our prayers. It takes courage to speak out for acceptance – and also to genuinely listen to others. May we learn to do both as we relate to every person in our lives. Sarah is a wonderful role model, I think. Blessings to you, Jean.

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