|Jefferson Award for Public Service|
I remember many years ago receiving an e-mail from what was then the non-profit organization, Cure Autism Now. I was selected as one of their "Hero's" to receive an award for my autism work at a Breakfast with other recipients in the prestigious "Galleria-area" of downtown Houston.
Filled with pride at my awesomeness, I promptly e-mailed my husband as to the date I would receive such honor so that he could take a vacation day to be my escort as that great honor was bestowed upon me.
I was so filled with my own awesomeness in fact, that I wrote the event down on the wrong day of my weekly planner of very important things worthy of awards that I do each day.
So, imagine my surprise when on a Wednesday afternoon I receive a call from that organization asking for my mailing address. I asked why and the person on the other end indicated that it was so they could mail me my award and that they were sorry they missed me that morning...
(Good thing I hadn't taken the tags off the new suit I bought to wear!)
That's one of my many moments of past humiliations I'll not soon forget!
Nor the moment not more than a few months after that beautiful glass sculpture arrived in the mail with my name engraved on it beside the words "Autism Hero"...
I had it placed on my nightstand bookshelf. You know, so I could look at it daily to be reminded of my awesomeness.
I was moving the furniture out of my room for my husband to put down a wood floor. In a split-second, the thing slid down the shelf and crashed into a million pieces on the cement floor from the carpet having been pulled up.
So much for being reminded of my awesomeness.
So much for awesomeness, period.
I couldn't help but laugh. My husband told me he was so sorry that happened as we were sweeping up the mess, but all I remember doing is laughing.
Laughing at my own foolishness. Laughing at how I allowed myself to think I needed an award for validation of the "work" I do in helping families with autism. Laughing at how much harder I'm sure God was laughing as well... Shaking his heavenly head back and forth with a smile thinking, "Yep, I like it when things happen to make my point for me!"
I learned through that lesson long ago -- that my validity as a person, a Christian, a wife, mother, autism advocate, etc --- does not come from titles, income, or awards.
I learned exactly what place those things have in God's eyes....
I learned that my validity for anything good or worthy I have done or might yet do, comes simply from doing a job well done.
From raising my hand when God daily asks, "Who will be my hands and feet?" and I raise my hand shyly, hesitantly, sometimes unwillingly, and other times even scared to death, and say, "Me! Use me!"
And then doing so with the gifts and opportunities God gives and provides for.
A para-phrased quote from Beth Moore that I'll not soon forget either is this:
"The world craves someone to idolize -- we would do our best not to deliver".
Since that 'incident' long ago, I've truly learned that I don't want to. I don't want to deliver to anyone a false hope or thought that I am anything more than an imperfect person seeking to serve perfection Himself. I don't want to be known for any other reason than as someone who served where she could, how she could, and by using to the best of her ability the gifts God gave to her.
And not for the hope of receiving an award one day, but simply because it's what each one of us are called to do!
That at the end of the day with my non-titles, my non-degrees, my non-income, my non-awards, and my non-awesomeness, -- I made a difference in someone's life.
The letters, cards, and thank you's received over the years, blessings of encouragement that have come at just the right time when things would happen in my own "Life with Autism" that would cause me to become weary. Overwhelmed. Discouraged. Doubting that anything I was doing made a difference considering all that needs to be done.
Lately it's been one of those periods of time...where I'm reminded more of the many things I can't do in serving others, more than the few things I can do.
So imagine the complete shock when on a Friday afternoon that my husband took off work so we could finally do some 'remodeling' on our house, I receive a call from Channel 2 News that I was nominated for and selected to receive a Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Honoring the grass-roots networking efforts of Texas Autism Advocacy the listserv, and Houston Autism Disability Network and the support provided through phone calls, e-mails, monthly meetings, special events, and conferences.
After I fumbled through the phone call and agreed on a date for them to come interview me and present the award, I actually went to my computer to look up exactly what this "Jefferson Award" is.
A "Nobel Prize" for Public Service, for Volunteerism. Founded by some pretty famous people. Heck, the selection committee is full of even more famous people.
I hear millions of pieces of shattered glass hitting the floor.....
But this is different. Where before, I actually thought I deserved an award. I couldn't wait to be there to receive it. I was prideful about it. Couldn't wait to get it home and display it.
Now, I know just how much I don't deserve an award for simply serving others as we each are called to do.
I am humbled. I am encouraged. I am challenged. I am torn and have debated for days whether or not to even share these thoughts on receiving such an award.
But I am sharing because I see this beautiful medal as an accountability tool. A call to continue the autism advocacy work still to be done. A shout-out to others that no matter who you are, where you are, what challenges in your own life you may have, even what little time or money you have, - you can make a difference.
And as I type this a realization that it's not only about what I have done. That was yesterday, and "I" didn't do all of it. There were many people who helped make yesterday's collective autism work possible.
But as a reminder of what I must do today, each day, in helping to bring about a better tomorrow for someone with autism and their family. That it will take many more people working together to accomplish what we must yet do for families affected by autism in our community.
It is for what was done yesterday and for the work of tomorrow, and all who have been and will be a part of both, - that I am humbled to receive the Jefferson Award and will continue to live up to what the spirit of this honor is all about.
And so on the ordinary day that Rachel McNeil of KPRC Channel 2 came to my house for the interview, and later to Brandon's school for the award presentation, I was surrounded by things, not people, that would keep that moment in perspective.
No fancy suit at a fancy breakfast with other important people being idolized as hero's during a ceremony in a fancy hotel in a prestigious area of town.
In fact, when they came to my house for the interview, I was totally embarrassed as every surface of the interior was coated in remodeling dust and my stove and kitchen table was in my living room, and my upstairs 'office' had no floor.
Later, at Brandon's school where they actually presented the medal to me, I could picture God smiling with me, as this time I feel I had the right attitude about it.
Yeah, just a non-awesome mom in probably the only pair of non-stained jeans I possess, wearing a shirt from my Wal-Mart Fall Collection, sporting roots needing to be touched up, during a humid Houston bad-hair day; with her totally awesome son who was far more fascinated by his straws than his mother's award.
Ha ha ha...
No, make that her totally awesome son who doesn't even know what an award is!
Thank you God for sending your son to serve us, so that we might know how to serve others.
Thank you Jefferson Awards for promoting community involvement, community service, and volunteerism.
Thank you KPRC Channel 2 for donating your airtime in partnership with the Jefferson Awards.
Thank you Todd for doing what you do at work each day to provide for our family, so that I can do what I do in serving other families.
Thank you everyone who was a part of the autism work in Texas that represents the spirit of this award.
(And thank you that this award is not glass)
By Michelle M. Guppy
For you, and because of you, my Brandon....
For those who want to see this non-public speaking gal's interview for this award, and the presentation of the award ( --- meaning you mom --- ) you can tune in to KPRC Channel 2 News on March 10th sometime during the 5pm newscast.
To learn more about the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, click here:
If you would like to answer the "Call to Volunteer" your time or your money for the autism work we do in Houston, please contact me at MichelleMGuppy@yahoo.com.
We are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and your donations are tax deductible.