The letter should discuss how the nominee has the potential to be a “change agent.”
Those are my instructions for a letter I am writing for a college student who is applying for a scholarship. In thinking about what a “change agent” is, it occurred to me that someone else who fits the title: A certain boy named Charlie.
I submit the following three examples in support of my case.
1) “Bankett, bankett!” Jim and I were just waking up when we heard Charlie crying out those words, followed by three thumps and more crying. I ran to his room and found him crouching over the floor. I was able to note that the middle of his forehead was a shade redder than the rest because, for the next ten minutes, Charlie screamed and arched his back and kicked while lying on the big blue pillow in his room.
I sat down beside him. Jim speculated he had been having a nightmare: Fear of losing all those many things—pillows, blankets, picture schedules, calendars, the snowman—that he had piled on his bed last night?
When Charlie was sitting somberly and droopy eyed on his bed I asked him if he’d like breakfast. “Bread, yes,” said Charlie. He dropped crumbs all over the couch, a smile passing over his face from time to time.
Yes, Charlie woke up with the potential for as big a tantrum as he ever has in the past, and he didn’t have it. Some describe autism as if it is constantly filled with these kinds of “behaviors.” Charlie has shown me that he can and has learned to get himself out of these tough moments much more quickly than in the past—that he can change.
2) “Jeff coming, wait for Jeff!” Charlie’s piano lesson was at 2.30pm; Charlie started calling for his teacher at 12 noon. He had lunch, lay around in his blanket, did a puzzle, put on his boots to run down the driveway several times.
At 2.45pm, I left a voicemail on the teacher’s cell phone and wondered if I had written down the wrong time?
The teacher came just after 3pm; the student before Charlie had needed some extra attention. Charlie, who had been curled up in nervousness if the piano teacher would never come, ran for the keyboard. “Siddown. Pay payanno!” When I mentioned to his teacher that, when Charlie is on the verge of getting upset, practicing the piano helps to focus and soothe him, the teacher’s face lit up.
“That’s the greatest reward a teacher can have—when playing the piano becomes the reinforcement itself!”
I felt as if I had been given a huge reward too.
3) The subway in New York city was crowded; I sighted one seat and pointed it out to Charlie. Jim and I were standing across the aisle and Charlie’s eyes, wearing just a hint of concern, looked at us from under his hat and through the winter coats and backpacks of the other passengers (one young woman had a huge bag with hockey skates in pockets on the side). More people got on and Charlie was completely obscured from our view. Even though Charlie was not every two feet away, because I could not see him, he seemed far off, as if he were riding on his own.
And who’s to say he won’t someday?
“Change agent” is an apt way to describe Charlie, and not only because of the many ways in which he is changing, learning, and growing up. Charlie has not only taught me to change—to listen to his particular language, to move in concert with him—but also how and why I can change, to do the best I can by him, every day.