Corey, The Graham Cracker Man
I once worked with a 15-year-old Autistic boy named Corey, who would bring me graham crackers every week at his scheduled appointment time. Corey had a tendency to show up early with his mixed breed service dog that his mother had adopted from a homeless man that could no longer take care of him.
What Corey lacked in dog care know-how, such as bathing, and removing foliage of sorts from the dog’s fur he made up for with love. He would curl up in the waiting room with this dog, patting his head and back, while explaining his day. Every so often, he would pause to compliment the dog, and remind him how much he loved him. Then, he would return to his stories. For our meetings, I asked him to call me Jeff, but he insisted on Dr. Jeff, The Medicine Man, after what I suspect to have been one too many viewings of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with his mother.
If I finished early with the patient prior to Corey, I would stop to admire Corey’s narrating skills before the start of our session. After ten of these observations, Corey had taught me all I needed to know about the self-compassionate wisdom of forgiveness.
Given Corey’s neurological challenges, he often found himself making social mistakes. People could be very mean in how they admonished Corey. He did not always understand the why, but he felt the how deeply. According to his mother, he used to come home crying every day, and would sometimes skip meals to pull himself back together, but something changed with the dog.
The dog had black tattered fur, an unkempt appearance, and a slight limp. Children called him names, and sometimes parents ordered their kids away from the dog or crossed the street to avoid him. Corey could relate to this rejection. So, he would use the information he had to re-tell the story of what happened to the dog in a way that explained the actions of others as being driven by fear and naiveté. He reminded the dog of how much he loved him, and how he was not to blame for the beauty others were not yet able to see.
The Self-Compassionate Wisdom Of Beauty, Love, And Understanding
There was the lesson, do not fear the judgment of others for you are beautiful, and loved, which I hope (for their sake) they one day see. Corey had found a compassion practice for his dog that gave his dog kindness, while undoing the burden of others’ present and future cruelties. This compassion carried over to Corey’s narrations of his own stories, and became fertile ground for Self-Compassion. There are three distinct elements to Corey’s compassion statements: beauty, love, and understanding. He never needed more than this to feel better.
The simplicity of this practice made it accessible to Corey, and forever deepened his relationship with his dog, and himself. He carried graham crackers as a reward for the hard work that he and the dog did journeying across town. When he revealed this to me, I asked him why he brought me graham crackers. He said, “Dr. Jeff, The Medicine Man, you work hard, and I love you too.”
No one has the power to decide if you are beautiful, worthy, and loveable. They are your birth rights. Remind yourself often that you, as all beings do, possess these traits, and try to make some room to forgive others that are too naïve to see that. One day they will, and if they do not, we will still wish they could have.
365 Days Of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 105. In The Books.