By Jean Perry, Special to the Neighb News
I have to admit it. The afternoon when about 25 people appeared on my front lawn on December 18 wielding hand-written signs, pinwheels, and party horns, I felt a little tense. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to feel.
But Diane Hahn, the orchestrator of the event, the ring leader of this circus of cacophony, stepped up and, through the power of social media, got one honking group of people together to stand up and make some noise for Diego — and not just any noise; it was a special noise that echoed into the streets, the noise of a community.
A noise that reached the ears of so many through Facebook sending beeps of support back to Fairhaven to Diego, and right to the house where the people who called the police on Diego just days before were hearing us.
Sure, they did call the police when everyone first converged on the sidewalk, Christmas music coming from the portable speaker, a cup of cocoa in every other hand, and a sign in the other asking drivers to “honk for Diego” as well as messages such as “Honks Trump Hate.”
The officer winked and told Diane that we were “okay” as long as we didn’t obstruct anyone using the sidewalk. With a collective “hooray,” the crowd continued making that old “air horn pull” gesture with their arm, led by Diego and the inerasable smile on his face, as I just stood there taking it all in wondering, how did this happen? On our autism journey of nearly 13 years now, how did we find ourselves here?
I can’t say I participated much. I watched everyone converge, people I am acquainted with and people Diego and I had never met before. I heard the steady stream of honks and beeps of the drivers passing by, some of them who made a special trip out just for the occasion and made several passes by just to honk for Diego and be a part of this thing, this beautiful thing that was happening on my front yard.
And when the biker gang made a special pass by the house, pausing for a moment to toss Diego a T-shirt and show support for a boy who just likes waving to cars, I almost lost it.
“The motorcycles were coming to me and they gave me a ‘vroom’,” said Diego. “All the people came and they had signs. One just said ‘I stand with Diego’.”
Ask him why he likes to get beeps and he will tell you in his own simple way, “I just feel happy. It feels loved.”
And that’s what that day was about; It wasn’t about a bitter, disgruntled neighbor looking down from the window at us all enjoying ourselves and getting lost in the beeping. It was about so much more.
Honestly, I was relieved when the event was finally over and the beeping subsided, the Christmas music turned off, and the crown dispersed, for I truly felt torn between the message of love and support that resounded from that afternoon and the annoying effects the beeping might have and probably did have on the neighbors who complained. But the next day when my doorbell rang, what resulted was the near perfect ending to a less-than-perfect situation.
The husband of the police-calling neighbor came over with a Christmas card in his hand. I was the first to speak.
“First, I’d just like to say…” He interrupted me, “You don’t have to say anything.” He admitted that when he saw what transpired the day before he had to laugh.
It was kind of funny, he said, and watching from his window made him wish he could put on his Santa suit and come outside and join us. Alas, although he could not, here he was, and we both apologized and, without saying much, we reached a level of mutual understanding. We hugged and wished each other a Merry Christmas and when I closed the door behind him, the meaning of all it all finally hit me.
The takeaways for me were lessons in understanding, support, and of communication.
Just look at how the power of social media can be a catalyst for bringing out the goodness in people, bringing them together off of Facebook and face to face to support each other during a time when one or two of us felt vulnerable. The community came out and turned a hurtful experience into an outpouring of love and support.
With all the negativity that is portrayed by the media, the negative image of society we are forced to reckon with every day just taking a peek at a screen, just think — all of this started as a phone call to the police and a Facebook post from a distraught mother that was shared and shared, eventually branching out into a Facebook event and subsequent Facebook posts of photos showing smiling faces and strangers across town, the state, and the country sending virtual “beeps” on Facebook for Diego.
There is no need to be fearful, I said to myself. We can talk to each other. We can communicate with our neighbors.
At the end of the day, we all moved forward into the New Year by coming together and speaking to each other, face to face, and there is no better way to communicate than face to face, even with the advances of technology. It definitely beats Facebook, for all that it’s worth, and it’s definitely better than police intervention.
Diego and I wish to thank everyone for their support, whether they came out and held signs, drove by and beeped, or sent a Facebook beep our way. Fairhaven is a special town to live in, inhabited by some extraordinary, passionate people, and their infectious caring and love managed to turn this entire situation around into something positive for all involved. You all put the “face” in Facebook and for that I dedicate this to you, Fairhaven.
Editor’s note: See our 12/15/16 issue, page 17 and from the editor.
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