Let us say our priest asks for an additional Lunch Box volunteer one week. Many people can say, “Sure, I’ll do it.”
I’m autistic. I will be thinking:
How does it work? What is my specific role? Will our roles be clear? Who is in charge? What expectations will they have that they will never specify out loud but will assume everyone understands? (Classic neurotypical behavior.) Will they get frustrated with me for asking a lot of questions and waiting for clear direction rather than just “getting it” and taking initiative? (In my experience, people nearly always do.)
I’ll replay in my head every service opportunity I accepted that went poorly the first time around, and how embarrassed and depleted it left me and how I never wanted to leave my couch again. Then I’ll return to the list of questions. Because I need to know. I need to know it all.
How long will it take? Am I cleaning up afterward too? What if more people come than they expect – will there be enough food? Will I have to rearrange my whole afternoon, and will it screw up my routine and cause a meltdown tonight? When was my last meltdown? Is my family still upset about it? How will this affect the atmosphere of my home for the coming week? Month?
Will people talk to me? Am I expected to talk with them – about what? Jesus and the Good News? The weather? Is there some sort of official programming? Will someone pray or preach? Will someone ask me to pray? Many are homeless or in poor mental health – how will this impact the nature of our conversation? Will I be able to handle the smell of body odor combined with the other strong scents in the room?
What food is being made? If the entire kitchen smells like eggs, I will get sick and have to leave – I have a sensory issue with the smell and texture and color of eggs, especially scrambled. But if I say this to anyone, they’ll think I’m super weird or trying to get out of doing the work. I will likely be more trouble than I’m worth.
And there it is: Is there a net good being accomplished here? And if so, at what cost to my health? It always comes back to counting the cost.
From “On the Spectrum: Autism, Faith, and the Gifts of Neurodiversity” by Daniel Bowman Jr.