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THE REASON I JUMP

“Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something”

– Naoki Higashida

THE REASON I JUMP

“Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something”

– Naoki Higashida

THE REASON I JUMP

by Mak Knox, Co-Founder of Dream Life Explorers

 

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida is one of those books that every person, no matter the age, occupation, sex, race, etc. needs to read. As a teacher, I’m always looking for ways to build compassion and empathy among students, to help others feel more included, and this just nailed it. It is super accessible and written in short chapters that allow the reader to enter the mind of a child with autism. Experiencing any other culture, even if it’s your own from a different lens, changes you. Even if you forget the little details and quirks, the feelings and growth of compassion remains.

 

As an educator, my mind was racing throughout, with thoughts of, “I need to get a class set!” “I could start a book club!” “Would they even get in on time before the end of the year?” “Should I start outlining the unit now?” With 2 months left in the school year, and other units already planned, it isn’t exactly realistic, but these are thoughts that will always be pulling me back to the classroom. Fleeting thoughts of, “I should’ve stayed to follow through on the bagillion ideas I have,” continue. Who knows if, “I know exactly what I would’ve done differently if given the chance,” will ever cease.

 

When I was only pages into the book, I was already curious if I would be able to see it in one of my own interactions with a student. Receiving the glimpse into the mind of Naoki had me wondering if what I read applied to this student. As I circulated through the room after silent reading, I paused, lowered myself to the student, and inquired about what he was doing. As the conversation began, I maintained eye contact and immersed myself in the conversation. I was there to listen to his words, and nothing else. I was present with him. As I maintained eye contact, the student began to speak and then quickly paused, as if uncomfortable with my presence.

 

I was shocked, intrigued to see how relevant the book had already shown up. He couldn’t respond. He froze, as if the words were not there. He had not had time to prepare anything and was now expected, by me, to respond with a coherent explanation. I crouched there by the desk side, wondering, “is what I just read in the book going on in his mind, too?”

 

“We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do” (10) was on the page where my finger held my spot in the book. Was this what was happening right now in the moment? I had never noticed this type of struggle before for him. Had I never been truly present with him in conversation before? Was it the eye contact? Was I being too intense? 

 

“I don’t want to talk anymore,” he commanded.

 

“Ok, if you need anything let me know,” I replied.

 

Was that the proper way to respond?

 

I was questioning, replaying every interaction that I had ever had with him in my mind.

 

10 pages in and I was already feeling like I had learned and seen more in real time than all of the schooling and professional development and articles that I had experienced.

 

“I LIKE this book,” I thought to myself.

 

It had been a while since a book had made me rethink my approach to my profession, and I was digging it. As I continued to read, I started to notice “autistic” tendencies in all of the students: constantly worrying about making mistakes, having little control over their reactions, not knowing how to express themselves, and I started to view this book as something bigger than even autism. It started to become a book on compassion, on empathy. I in no way want to take anything away from those that have autism, it is just that I see a lack of love among so many people that I tend to question how we can increase compassion among us all.

 

Every student enters the classroom (and heck, our life!) with different strengths and most are so scared of showing others their weaknesses that they hide it behind silence, anger, and ambivalence, to name a few.

 

This book got my mind rolling THAT quickly.

 

 This book changed me.

 

I believe for the good. I already have plans to work on increasing my patience and compassion. And who can’t use a little more of those?! Books like these make me fall in love with reading all over again. What is the last book that made YOU reassess your outlook on life?  

 

When is the last time a book grabbed you so quickly and powerfully? I’m constantly questioning my own purpose, my own beliefs, the world, etc. (if you couldn’t tell already), and this book so easily and powerfully had me looking to expand my perspective and understanding.

Touché, Naoki.

 

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