This blog post was written by Veronica Portelli, DFJS intern:
Life is full of those “a-ha!” moments. Those moments that make you stop and stare because they are so beautiful. I think many of us think of these moments as the typical picturesque sunset photo or something along the lines captured in a photo. But my “a-ha!” moment was not photographed anywhere except for in my mind. Unfortunately, I cannot show you my “a-ha!” moment, but I remember it clear as day as if it happened yesterday. It was in this moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
My older sister, Gabby, was diagnosed with Autism when she was two years old, the age at which most kids who are Autistic, are diagnosed. Gabby, for most of my life that I can remember, has been one of the greatest inspirational forces in everything I do. Over the years, I have grown up to become her older sister even though she is two years and a day older than I am. I would do anything for her and would change absolutely nothing about her pure soul. She is kind, honest, funny, unique, special.
When I was ten, I decided I wanted to start helping more kids like my sister. Gabby helped me recognize that children with Autism were different but in a truly magical way. I came to see how each kid was so gifted in certain aspects of life. Gabby, for example, has an incredible connection to animals and little children. She has a way of understanding how they feel without anyone saying anything or without being able to verbally communicate with an animal. From other experiences, I learned how other children with Autism are talented in the way they draw and build, some excel in education and so on.
When I was seventeen, I was a senior in high school. At this point in my life, I had been volunteering with the Autistic Foundation for a little over seven years. One weekend, my sister’s then-therapist was hosting a “Caf-A”, a night for children with Autism to get up and showcase their talents, all while raising awareness for the foundation. As per usual, I wanted to help. This was the night of my “a-ha!” moment.
A young boy, probably around nine years old, got up on stage with about five other kids to dance and sing along to a song of their choice. Although maybe a little off-beat, their routine to us was just perfect, and the smiles spread across their faces proved that they knew it was perfect too.
To make the moment better, when the routine was over, this particular young boy ran off stage to his father where they embraced in a long, loving hug. This young boy was also deaf, as I quickly found out when he and his father both said, “I love you” in sign language. For some reason, this moment struck my heart. I wanted to cry, and you can ask people who know me well, I do not cry easily. Tears of pure happiness of course. I think this moment really sticks with me because in such a normal occurrence in this family’s life, I was reminded that although life is hard, it can also be quite beautiful. Many of us complain over the silliest of issues and I think we often forget how others struggle every day much more than we ever will. To look at a young boy who was not only Autistic, but also deaf, and watch him enjoy life to the fullest, it gave me hope for the future. It gave me a feeling of purpose. In this very moment, I was reminded as to why I love volunteering and specifically with beautiful children such as the ones I had seen this night.
It is the small moments in life that happen so quickly and so honestly that in my opinion, are our “a-ha!” moments. They are the moments that make you tear up when you normally don’t. They are the moments that change you perspective on life, the ones that make you want to do the good.
I always knew I wanted to help but never knew how I could turn it into a career. Now, at 20 years old, I know that one day I want to be a Special Needs Attorney, this way I can continue to help and make a positive impact in the lives for those who need the help.
I can thank my “a-ha!” moment for this specific reason and I can only hope that everyone is one day fortunate enough to experience an “a-ha!” moment of their own.