By Joseph Mazzella,

My youngest son will turn 27 soon, but still has the mind of a child. He has a severe form of Autism that has left him mentally handicapped. He says only a few words, but still often makes loud vocalizations just to amuse himself. He stares off into space a lot, but also has no sense of personal space and often stands too close or bumps into people. Sometimes he will become upset and cry loudly for no reason I can understand. When we go in public together most strangers will stare at him for a second, but then not wanting to be rude, will look away and ignore us.

When we stopped at a convenience store the other day to get a snack, however, I was in for a surprise. After we had used the restroom and grabbed some chips, tea, and cheese, we walked to the cashier. She smiled warmly at us both and looked at my son with such loving-kindness. She spoke to him just like he was her own child while he bounced up and down and giggled with glee. I watched happily as they shared this moment together. Then, when she said goodbye to us I was amazed when my son smiled and said “Bye!” back.

It is people like this wonderful lady that give me so much hope for the future. During my lifetime I have so often seen love overcome fear, wisdom replace ignorance, kindness and compassion beat back anger and hatred, and tolerance triumph over prejudice. At one time, slavery was an institution in this country, but no more. At one time, Jim Crow laws were in force, but now they're gone. At one time people like my sweet son would be locked away in a horrible institution, but now they can live at home, and are mainstreamed in schools, and are accepted by the communities in which they live.

Yes, we still have a long way to go. Still, I have watched over the last half-century how we have, step by step, grown more and more like God, who created us. That is why I still have hope for our future. In the end, I believe we will all finally live as one family in this world. In the end we will finally love each other just as God loves us.

Joseph Mazzella is a free-lance writer from Nicholas County and a GSC Alumnus.

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