Pittsburgh Marathon 2022: Water

Autism Connection’s team joined forces with a slew of dedicated volunteers at the 2022 Pittsburgh Marathon.

It was 6:00 in the morning, and we were surrounded by water; gallons and gallons of water waiting to fill paper cups. There were heavy clouds weighted with water above us. Under Fluid Captain, Norm’s, direction, volunteers quickly assembled paper cups, filled them, then placed cardboard slats on them so we could layer the cups in stacks three layers high.

We were cold. Large droplets slowly slapped the tables. Norm handed out rain ponchos with a kind, insightful smile, “You’re gonna need this.”

Norm, Marathon Fluid Captain older man holding Autism Connection flag

Norm, Fluid Captain for 2022 Pittsburgh Marathon

We braced for runners and rain. Hand cyclists whizzed past so quickly some volunteers thought they were motorized vehicles. Then the first marathon runners glided by. It was captivating, and we seemed to lose awareness of the rain pellets.

The lead runners moved with seemingly little effort. Those that followed showed signs of struggle and determination as some reached for cups of water. Each captured cup was a triumph.

We were soaked. There was a quick streak of lightning and a thunderclap, and we braced for more. But when the clouds released, a thunderous rumble of cheering voices burst through the deluge. The harder it rained, the harder we cheered. And the runners pushed forward.

We faced challenges, white numbed hands, soaked shoes, road closures, barriers, and rain.

But that’s what the autism community does. We acknowledge and overcome obstacles. We circumvent barriers and face challenges head on.  We accept the downpours and try to make the best of them, with the belief they will let up at some point.

And sometimes we cheer as we persevere.

Monday’s Spontaneous Promise

This post-Easter Monday morning started with grey skies and a black cup of coffee, but things became colorful in an instant. What I thought would be a quiet beginning to my fourth week as Director of Operations for Autism Connection turned out to be delightfully busy, and quite literally, energetic. I was settled at my desk, setting priorities for the upcoming week, but the morning had other plans.

We had an unexpected visit from a local father and son who were looking for guidance in transitioning from school to work. The young man filled the building with vibrant energy and immense curiosity as he explored the offices, halls, and the contents of the refrigerator, before gravitating to Lu’s office for a talk. We found resources, and we found systemic issues that need to be addressed.

After our guests departed, we hopped on a meeting with a local elementary school principal to plan an assembly for students so they can learn about the autism spectrum, inclusion, and kindness. In the midst of this meeting, we had another visitor who popped in to say hello. She introduced herself to the principal on the virtual call, and he was delighted by the interruption.

This is a good sign.

As Lu and I debriefed, we got a call concerning an incarcerated adult who is in dire need of help, ranging from diagnosis to placement. The call served as a reminder that misunderstood behavior and miscommunication can lead to catastrophic results for people in the autism community. We brainstormed ways to help, and we explored what needs to be done to keep it from happening again.

All of this before 11:00 AM.

Setting a plotted schedule for the week is important, but sometimes the most significant priorities arrive unexpectedly. The beauty of Autism Connection is its ability to adjust to the needs of our community and the grand spontaneity that comes with working in this field.

This is a good sign.