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Watching a movie about a life sized doll ordered off the Internet was not where I expected to discover community. Yet in Lars and the Real Girl, community plays a central role as each character decides what to do about Bianca – the doll that Lars believes is real.Can Bianca come in for dinner? Lars’ brother doesn’t want to be associated with crazy. His sister-in-law, Karin, seems a bit more open. She asks what they can do to help, but recoils at the thought of letting Bianca borrow her clothes. It is a very personal request. Here is where Karin draws the line – Bianca doesn’t have the same style. But Lars says Bianca doesn’t care about stuff like that.The movie focuses on the community including Bianca so Lars can feel included, too. The community includes her for Lars. Lars, too, faces the challenge of valuing his doll. I think the most powerful moment is when Lars has to decide what he will do about Bianca. Will Lars accept that Bianca is part of the community, not owned by him?
Bianca had value because the people chose to give it to her – by giving her a job, volunteer positions and a social life. Bianca did nothing. However, I believe she gave the greatest gift in the movie. Bianca gave the community an opportunity to decide about Lars. To view him as other, or part of common humanity. To change to include him or reject him for being different. Choosing to give Bianca value created a place for Lars to belong. The choice of each individual affected the community as a whole.
Lars and the Real Girl demonstrates how what we value shapes our communities. Disability challenges others who find their value in their abilities. Finding identity in a relationship makes it too valuable, something to cling to for life until there is no life left. Finding value in what we own makes tackling poverty more difficult, even if it is simply lending clothes to a doll.
Where have you been valued by and in community?
I don’t have a special interest. I get a tad disappointed when people learn I have Autism Spectrum Disorder because the follow up response is often, “Do you have a special talent or interest?” I reply with no. While my IQ is at or above the 99th percentile, I don’t have savant skills. Brilliant, but not necessarily genius. With so many interests, none get elevated to the level of positive obsession.
While sharing this frustration with my psychiatrist this week, she used the phrase “globally gifted” to describe me. I quipped, “No wonder I’ve been lacking career direction.” I didn’t know how to pick what I was good at. After high school I enrolled as an Arts major with Calculus as my option – I knew it would be an easy A. Not the usual academic combination.
However, because of my global giftedness/Autism combination, I ask questions some perceive as out of context. Cutting edge leaders and policy makers value innovation, creativity and dedication to working out contextual strategies. Increasingly I’m invited to participate in these type of discussions which excites me. And feels risky. My social limitations have the power to emotionally erase the positive contributions I bring to brainstorming and networking. With a social faux pas I could lose credibility within the group and spiral downward in my mind if I allow myself to replay the incident.
I’m choosing to be thankful for the combination of characteristics which make me who I am. Without the Autism, networking could easily become schmoozing. Without global giftedness, one or two intense passions could easily limit my life experiences. Thankfulness creates the space to live my life to the fullest.
What benefits have you discovered in living with Autism, either in yourself or someone you know?