So — we have been Netflix binging this summer.  Sheryl and I found several movies we loved from 10-20 years ago, and several unknown titles as well.  Our newfound binge favorite, by far, is Ron Howard’s incredible series Parenthood, themed around a Berkley, California based family who deal with a range of real life issues.

Max Burkholder is the child actor who portrays Max Braverman in the critically acclaimed NBC series which ran from 2010-2015. His parents, Adam and Kristina Braverman, discover that Max suffers from Asberger’s Syndrome, which has been called a “high functioning” form of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

My sweet wife Sheryl has taught children in our local school district who suffer from various forms of Autism disorders. I have experienced mentoring a few autistic children in my bus driving and volunteer work with school band and choir programs, as well as church ministry work.

The summer binge watching of Parenthood has sparked a place in my heart that, if I am honest, was a bit of an after thought when dealing with autistic children. As we have viewed the real life scenarios that occur in the TV series, and consider how those episodes have likely played out in the lives of children we actually know and have connection with … our TV affection for Max Braverman and his parents has now turned to an even deeper love and admiration for the real life people here in our hometown.

Max Braverman and his TV family endure daily struggles, which become weekly random episodes of meltdowns, accidents, misunderstandings, and outright angry moments, due to the effects of Asberger’s.  Sheryl and I routinely discuss the scenarios that our friends with autistic children must surely cope with, and we have become more deeply moved with a desire to pray for these precious friends.  So, we pray.  And, we pay more attention. And, we hug our children a bit tighter.

We recently attended a coastwide rally for Autism Awareness in Biloxi, Mississippi.  The Mississippi Centers For Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities was the benefactor of a series of fundraisers.  As we listened to the speeches of the Founders, Directors, and recipients of the care offered by this incredible organization, our hearts were moved with great compassion.  But, more important, our spirits were lifted just to know that a facility and staff of this magnitude are located right here in our coastal neighborhood.  What a joy to realize that, together with others who share great concern for those suffering — we are making a difference.

Max Braverman (via actor Max Burkholder) has touched a place in my heart.  I have fallen in love with Max.  I am falling more in love with the children like Max who live in my neighborhood and in my hometown.  I am asking God to help me be more aware of children and adults like Max.  They are much more intelligent and aware and loving than we might realize. Their ‘disorder’ might actually be a blessing in disguise, as difficult as the daily challenges seem for everyone involved.  And that … is beautiful and amazing to me.