An ELI Talk is a Jewish TED-style talk. I became enamored with the thought of giving a TED talk one day when my friend Scott Simon gave one and like all my ideas, started with a kernel of “hey I could do that.” Then I discovered ELI talks.
According to its website: At the heart of every ELI talk is Jewish religious engagement (E), Jewish literacy (L), and Jewish identity (I) with Israel and peoplehood at the core. So I don’t know if one day I will give a Ted talk or an Eli talk or both, but recently a woman named Gabrielle (Gabby) reached out to me with her talk and encouraged me to watch it.
It took me like two weeks and one follow-up email from Gabby (where’s the emoji where the monkey has his hands over his eyes?) but I finally watched it. As I did, I sent Gabby little email updates:
3:09 pm: I’m in the middle… you’ve already made me cry…
3:09 pm: Can I be your friend? (She said yes.)
3:25 pm: Just beautiful. I’m going to post it on my blog. Probably on Monday.
Gabby speaks emotionally and eloquently about having an autistic child. She speaks about being the mom who doesn’t know how to “be” with another mom who has a child who’s different. Then she talks about her own metamorphosis into “that mom.” Her words could have been mine; her pain, my pain. As I watched, I didn’t even realize that April is National Autism Awareness Month but it works beautifully. A year ago I posted this on Facebook:
Autism awareness month.
OK, here’s what I’d like to say.
People on the autism spectrum are sometimes brilliant in certain areas…but not necessarily.
People on the autism spectrum sometimes present as different, or walk or talk differently… but not necessarily.
People on the autism spectrum often have tics or stimming…but not necessarily.
People on the autism spectrum can be verbal (sometimes very) or non-verbal; affectionate, or averse to affection; have high, low, or normal IQ; “promising” futures with well-paying jobs, marriages, and children; or limited job opportunities without the option for marriage.
In other words, people with autism have social difficulty – everything else varies. Chances are good you already know and possibly love a person with autism. I do. I have not been able to hug or kiss him in years, or say “I love you” and that really hurts, but this is the child God gave me and I will love him in the way he needs to be loved.
Here’s what I wrote this year:
Well it’s World Autism Awareness Week and watch my blog for an amazing Ted-style talk this week. Meanwhile, I’ll say this: if you see someone acting odd, rude, or off, there may be a reason. And that reason may be autism. One thing autism has taught me: no one behaves odd or off for no reason. There is always a reason, and it probably deserves your compassion. And for this awareness I will always be grateful to my precious boy and to the autism that is one part of who he is.
So when I saw Gabby’s talk I felt a very strong sense of kinship, and I think it’s a message the world should hear. Here it is.
Wishing all my readers a wonderful Passover! Here’s an article I wrote to help you with your Seder!