Our Purpose, Clarified
16 Oct 2016
When I first entertained the idea of forming a not-for-profit organization–now Illumination Foundation of North Carolina (IFNC)– there were many fears and reservations. What if no one cares? What if I leave my job and the new organization doesn’t succeed? I am certain many of can relate. You see, I am just a lady from Gastonia, NC, raised by her older sister and single father in a moderate home, probably on the less desirable end of town. I attended what could be considered a low-income high school and did not attend college. Just the idea of giving up the stability of working in a job that I felt so lucky to have would make my stomach turn, but something within me wouldn’t settle. So, with a hope, a dream and four of the coolest people I know, a warm intensity began to brew inside, and I took a leap of faith.
Over the past year, IFNC has faced quite a few barriers. There have been those times when self-doubt and frustration entered to cloud our vision and to dim our light. Despite those challenges, we have pushed through and survived our first year. We have remain positive, focused and continue to work, daily, to improve and bring awareness to our community.
Last week, I was out shopping and picked up some supplies for sensory boards, tactile stimulation and calming bottles. As always, the cashier asked for my rewards card and, at that time, I made a comment about how every little bit helps and told her about our foundation. The cashier shared that her nephew had been displaying negative behaviors and trouble transitioning. I was able to share some easy, fast and free techniques that may help calm this young man when his outbursts occurred. She thanked me, and I left without thinking much about the encounter.
On Tuesday of this week, I returned to the same store with an IFNC co-founder, Rosy, to pick up more items for sensory processing. Once again, I found myself in the line of the same cashier from last week. Not wanting to mention her personal information, I just smiled, put my items on the counter and resumed my conversation with about Autism and public education. Very politely, the cashier spoke up and said “Hey, you guys should look up Illumination NC. They are awesome!” Holding back tears, she told us that a lady had come in several days ago and shared how to help manage her nephew’s behavior. Rosy and I looked at one another, and I said “Wait, that was me. That’s us!” The young lady became even more emotional and said that her family had struggled for years to help her nephew calm down during outbursts. She said that, for the first time ever, he stopped. When she used a calming technique that I advised her to use, he stopped.
There are no words for the burst of light that shone upon me at that moment. The pure joy of knowing that a small exchange and simple advice had created a way for her to connect with her nephew was a clarifying moment. It was also an incredible feeling that Illumination Foundation of North Carolina had been referred to with such enthusiasm. I thought to myself and, maybe out loud, “this is it, this is why we HAVE to push.” There are so many unserved and underserved people in need, and they deserve hope. We, at IFNC consider it an absolute privilege to serve our peers and our communities. We are humbled by the public testimony and truly honored to be a part of a brighter future.