“A life of service is never easy. Having autism can make it even harder” is the title of current JV Gus Hardy’s beautiful and deeply moving reflection in this month’s issue of America Magazine. In it, Gus reflects on what it’s like to commit to service while also living with autism, and how Ignatian Spirituality has played a significant role in his strength and commitment.
“The wind bites at my hands at 6:30 a.m. as I lock up my bike outside the Poverello Center, the state’s largest homeless shelter, in Missoula, Mont. I walk through the double door, slap the front desk for luck and hole up in a staff office so that I can make my necessary prayers for the day to come. I do not always remember to center myself, but on the days that I do I am able to pay better attention to the various people who are recently out of prison or are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, all of whom I have chosen to serve as a Jesuit volunteer in the Pacific Northwest. It is a hard job that requires a lot of people skills that do not come naturally for me because I was born with autism.
In my work I have been called “cold,” “impersonal” (and far worse) about as many times as I have been told that I am doing the work of God. No matter what people say, I look each person in the eye and try with everything I can muster to create the empathic connection that seems to come so easily to other people. It is bitter work for me, more than for most of the world, but God has called me to it, so I have got to step up…”