Mark Rocha - Official

World of Innocence

Every day I walk through a candy gate, 
that guards this big sugar building;
and as the purple sun illuminates my footprints in the blue sand,
I look forward to throwing square balls in baskets,
and running with my friends on the red grass among the many flowers.
Inside the building, this nice girl helps me play.
She helps me use paints to make beautiful pictures.
Dogs that swim, and people that fly.
I also want to fly.
She doesn’t talk like the other helpers.
She talks like the birds.
I don’t understand when people talk.
Her voice is like the green chok-lit I like,
and it makes it easier to understand why I must keep my helmet on, 
and why I must wear my shirt.
She plays ‘put the basket around the ball’ with me,
and because I can’t do it very well, she pretends she can’t either.
I wish she could come home with me, but she can’t.
But that’s okay; I’ll see her when I come tomorrow,
In the long box with the square circles on it.

Many years ago, while I was in Dubai, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Al Noor, a school for children with autism and learning disabilities. At the time I didn't really know anything about autism, or how to work with these kids. It was just something I signed up to do because I was talked into it by a friend of mine. Little did I know that it would change my life forever.

No, I didn't become a special educator, nor did I vow that day to make helping children with special needs my vocation. What changed in my life was the realisation that I wasn't as emotionally strong as I thought I was. I realised that to help these children took more than just patience and understanding. It took emotions that could not be learned, and skills that could not be taught - it took something that could only be described as divine. A gift that is so precious that only a few people in this world are blessed to possess it. Needless to say, I didn't last very long because my heart just could not handle it - and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It wasn't long after, that I wrote this poem as a way to channel those emotions. I've held on to this poem for many years since then, and only recently had the courage to share it as part of my book Resurrection.

April 2nd was World Autism day, and though I'm a little late, I wanted to share this poem with all the amazing teachers and volunteers that have dedicated their lives and their vocation to teaching and helping those with autism and special needs. People like my dear friend Andre Velho and the amazing people at Sethu Goa who are the real heroes. If you have made it this far, thank you, and Happy World Autism Day. I hope you have been inspired to make a difference.

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