“When you are born with differences to the majority of people, you soon learn that being accepted and belonging with people who value you, just for who you are, are some of the most valuable qualities humans have to offer each other.
Unfortunately, the way you learn this is frequently by realising that actually almost no one accepts you, that many people would rather hide from you, forget about and exclude you to avoid your differences and that there are very few placesi n the world who welcome you being there.
People look upon you as ‘broken’, ‘weird’, or at best as a ‘poor thing’. Some even go so far as to become overtly, or perhaps worse, covertly cruel such that by the time adulthood arrives it is with no expectation that one will be loved, respected or welcomed outside of any familial relationships that have managed to survive against the tide.
Self-esteem by that point may have been almost totally eradicated and replaced by feelings of inadequacy,joylessness and a deep sense that no matter what you do, or how hard you try that you will never feel truly loved and accepted in the way you see others are and feel towards each other.
Occasionally though, a glint of hope may appear, and assuming one has the courage to believe it won’t lead to just the next disappointment; following that glint can instead lead to opportunities to dare to believe life could be a little better, a little more loving and a little more worthwhile.
For Leo, that glint camefrom Community Roots when the lack of support with his Autism had reached a pitch where he was almost completely isolated, had lost almost every human connection he once had, and had begun to give up on life entirely. Nothing was fulfilling for him, nowhere welcomed him and no oneseemed to be able to recognise or welcome his intrinsic value.
Until, one day he arrived home saying that someone had taken the time to show him around aplace where they ‘grew vegetables’ and that he had been ‘allowed’ to be there. A week or two later he went back. This time when he came home he was waving a bunch of muddy beetroot about wearing a grin and saying that someone had laughed with him, not at him about something or other.
The next time he arrived home from Roots he was full of tales of cooking lunch ‘all together’. He mentioned, tea time in a poly tunnel, people’s names, the colour of their hair, their dogs’ names, the make of their cars and their muddy boots. After that, week on week, Leo gradually began to speak about Roots as if he were less a visitor there and more apart of it. He spoke of people taking the time to show him how to build things, grow things, cook and do things; until one day, Leo referred to his time at Roots as going to see his ‘Roots family.
Ultimately what Community Roots offered Leo may have looked like a place to learn to grow vegetables, to cook and eat them straight from the earth, to share a meal from mismatched plates with an eclectic bunch of colourful people, to build poly tunnels with as much determination as raw materials, but in the end what Community Roots actually did was show Leo that he was valuable, that he counts and that he belongs.”