At some point, all of us have some struggles in our lives. Some are major and require serious adjustments. Others are more in the category of irritants or minor bumps in our journey toward a satisfying retirement. At the time we may be upset, but in retrospect we realize we have it pretty good compared to others.
This post is about a young man who is years from retirement. In fact he is in his early 20's. He is the son of a couple in our small group at church. His mom and dad keep us up to date on his life and how he is faring. Oh, I should mention he is autistic, though, you will see shortly that is not who he is nor does it limit him. Rather, I get the very real sense that he would think of autism as just one of the "bumps" in the road that he has learned to navigate.
Matt is a cook, and a very good one. I know because he often prepares desserts for our small group meetings. He lives with mom and dad and creates his magic in their kitchen. Last year he was given an opportunity by a local organization, SeedSpot.org, that provides funds for early stage social entrepreneurs, to develop his own business.
Stuttering King Bakery is the result. Matt, with help from mom and dad, now supplies baked goods to several Phoenix area offices and coffee shops. For example, one place Matt delivers his seriously good pastries is the Beneficial Beans Cafe in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. That cafe is run by the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center. His goal is to open a bakery in downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale to expand his operation, while hiring other autistic folks to help him with the work load.
Stuttering King Bakery? The name choice reveals a lot about this amazing young man. Matt says the name is in honor of England's King George VI, a man who overcame a serious disability to lead his country. The recent movie, The King's Speech, told his story. Matt faced his own major challenges in finding ways to accomplish his dream through an educational system that has problems properly serving autistic students.
Matt took private lessons for three years from a local pastry chef before serving at St. Mary's Food Bank kitchen to hone his skills. In his office space at Seedspot he and mom work on budgets, marketing, and all the issues involved in establishing a viable business.
Recently, The Downtown Devil, a newspaper for those attending the downtown campus of Arizona State University, wrote a glowing report on Matt and his determination to succeed. In that profile the co-founder of Seedspot, Courtney Klein Johnson, said "How can you not fall in love with his story, the dream and his dream for other autistic people? [Matt's] unique home-baked and delivered business model, attention to detail and dream to employ other autistic people make him a perfect member of the Seed Spot mantra."
The Phoenix Business Journal had a report on Matt's story, too. Seedspot sponsored a demonstration day at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Four young businesses pitched their concepts and products. Matt's baked goods stole the show and earned him a picture on the front page of the report.
So, besides knowing him personally, what is the connection between a 23 year old autistic man and this blog? It is the universal message that, regardless of age and circumstances, we always have a choice: to give in to our troubles and problems, or fight them and find out how to make them work for us.
I recently re-read Stephen Covey's mega-bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Several of his points fit Matt's story perfectly. Mr. Covey reminds us of Eleanor Roosevelt's words, "No one can hurt you without your consent."
He also makes these point:
* Blaming everyone and everything for our problems chains us to those problems.
*The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the habit of effectiveness.
*It is not what happens to us, but our responses to what happens to us that hurts [or helps] us.
*Our behavior is a function of our decisions.
*If my life is not of my own design, but the result of my deferring to circumstances and other people, then I can change it.
Matt is autistic. He is also a creative, generous, giving young man with the gift of baking masterpieces and the will to succeed.
I doubt he spends much time thinking about the autistic part anymore. He is too busy building a dream. Do any of us need any more motivation than that?