**You are going to want to read through to the end!! **
It was a Monday afternoon and I was working in my office at home when Cole came up to me and said “take Christmas balls.” Cole has autism and is non-verbal, though he uses echolalia and some words and phrases that he has learned to communicate his basic needs. I had no idea what he meant by “take Christmas balls” because it was March and it was an entirely new set of words for Cole. He returned a few minutes later and wrote it on a piece of paper in case I didn’t understand, “take Christmas balls.” I wrote on a sticky note “what?” “take Christmas balls where?” He repeated the original statement and I knew that whatever it was, Cole was not going to quit until I had helped him take some Christmas balls somewhere. I had tons of work to finish so I told him to bring me the calendar. This is a strategy we use with Cole to defer one of his difficult requests, giving ourselves more time to figure out the mystery. He brought me every calendar in the house and I wrote “take Christmas balls” on the Tuesday of the following week, hoping that whatever he meant would resolve itself.
The following Tuesday I had all but forgotten about the Christmas balls, the large green and red balls that had hung on strings in front of the fireplace and were now in a box in the corner of the garage. Cole had not forgotten and that afternoon, he said it again, “take Christmas balls.” I gathered up the Christmas balls and put them in a grocery bag and handed it to Cole then we left the house. Once we got to town Cole started to direct me where to go. He pointed his long finger down the street and I drove. “That way,” he said. Pretty soon we were on the highway heading out of town. I am not the patient sort so I asked for information. “are we going to Fort St James?” NO. “Are we going to Fort Fraser? “No.” Fraser Lake? “No.” “Prince Rupert?” He said “STUPID!” I was glad that a 6 hour drive to Prince Rupert was a stupid suggestion. “Burns Lake” I asked? He nodded, “Yes.” I glanced at my fuel gauge and noticed that I had half a tank; that would get us there. I wished I had bought a coffee for the 90 minute drive to Burns Lake.
I had no idea what would happen when we arrived. Did he even know? Could he possibly have a plan? We had been there a few times before for soccer games and just passing through, but we have never spent any time there. After puzzling over the situation for an hour and a half, we arrived in the town of Burns Lake. Cole was still hugging the bag of Christmas balls in his lap. I asked him where are we going? ‘
He just looked straight ahead. Suddenly he pointed at a side street and I passed it because I didn’t have enough time to turn. He redirected me just like Google maps at the next street. We drove around the block to a driveway of a house I had never been to. In fact, we had never even been on that street before. “That one” Cole said. I pulled into the driveway and turned off my truck. A lady peered out the kitchen window as Cole counted out the large Christmas balls into my arms. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I could barely hold them so he rushed around to open my door for me. As I got out I dropped one and Cole picked it up.
We walked to the door as a lady whom I had never seen, opened the front door of her house with a very puzzled look on her face. My heart was racing and I didn’t know what Cole would do. Typically he rushes right in when we go to the door so I said to Cole, and at the same time to the lady, “Cole, we need to explain ourselves. Let’s use our words.” Cole handed her the Christmas ball he had in his hands and said “Here!” She didn’t know what to do and neither did I so I said “this might not make any sense to you, but we are from Vanderhoof and my son here has Autism. He doesn’t speak much so when he does, we pay attention. A week ago he said ” take Christmas balls”, and I wrote it on the calendar for today. So today he has directed me to your house and I think he wants to give you these Christmas balls .” She looked stunned for a moment and asked, “All of them?” I told her how he had counted them out deliberately so he intended for her to keep them all. I figured she must think I was crazy, but then she did something unexpected. She put down the Christmas ball in her hands then she flung her door wide open and stepping to the side said, “LOOK!” Behind her were garlands and Christmas balls hanging around her living area. She said, “We LOVE Christmas! I am the one who decorates the tree down the road! We celebrate Christmas all year round!” I admit I was surprised to hear that there was an actual connection between her and Cole’s “Christmas balls” mission. I said, “Cole wants you to have these ornaments; he counted out each one for you.” She teared up and hugged me as Cole casually walked back to my truck. He had a sense of satisfaction and I was proud of him.
As we drove home, I wondered at how Cole had known about the lady who loves Christmas. He simply understands things on a different level than I do. He is non-verbal, but I think he hears the Holy Spirit as clearly as a neuro-typical person hears their own voice.