When asked to explain why it is that I volunteer, I could not give an answer right away. Its not as though volunteering offers immediate, tangible rewards, like having a job and receiving a regular pay cheque, or doing schoolwork and having good grades show up on my transcript. No, volunteering leaves me with a different set of rewards that do not come right away, are not always obvious, and are never tangible.
In my three months with GSA acting as a friend to a person with autism, the main reward for me has been gradually gaining understanding. Each time we hang out, we share just a little bit more of ourselves with each other through activities, and conversation. Each get-together is a little bit more fun than its predecessor, and we gradually come to understand the world of the other, only to find that these worlds are not so different after all.
It didn’t take long for his autism to become transparent. Although it is still there, it has become in my eyes more of an attribute than a disability. The friend with whom I spend time can beat me hands down at scrabble, and leave me gasping for air during badminton. He is also flawless when it comes to touch typing, and relentless when there is work to be done. With some encouragement and patience he tells me stories about things he has done, and places he has been - some of which are far greater than any I could tell. He has taught me about manners, friendship, the beauty of silence, and the power of a smile.
Volunteering with GSA is something anyone with a little time and a little patience can do. I know I will never stop learning, and never stop understanding more about autism, and people in general. I also rest easy knowing that my friend is also learning, building skills, and most importantly enjoying himself. These rewards could not be gained any other way.
Thank you GSA!
Check the Ontario
Adult Autism Research and Support Network’s website for more information
and opportunities for volunteering at OAARSN
Click on the Communications button on the main page, then on Volunteering.
Or click directly on: