The LEGO stud-and-tube coupling system was developed and patented in 1957. Since that day the company has manufactured over 400 billion LEGO pieces.
Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers. The interlocking principle makes the toy unique, and offers unlimited building possibilities. It's just a matter of getting the imagination going – and letting a wealth of creative ideas emerge.
Last Tuesday was marked on the church calendar as "Ethan Activity." During the past two years the young men (age 14 - 18) and their leaders, have routinely scheduled specific activities that appeal to Ethan, all in an effort to keep him included with his class, which in church we refer to as a quorum.

The first time such an activity was scheduled the leaders asked me to come to their Sunday quorum meeting and tell the young men a little about Ethan, which I was more than happy to do. I described Ethan's style of autism, and the types of things the young men might experience while watching a movie with him. I told them that
  • Ethan may suddenly stand up and begin acting out scenes in the movie,
  • Quote lines from the movie incessantly,
  • Line up all his stuffed animals amid the young men so that everybody can watch the movie,
  • Hit the rewind button on the remote over and over repeating his favorite scenes,
  • Laugh hysterically at the oddest moments,
  • Burst out with very odd sayings, or speak what appears to be gibberish, as he is suddenly reminded about some other random thought that to everybody else is a hundred miles away,
  • Mysteriously become agitated because of something elusive and just as mysterious
  • Clear his throat or sniff repetitively as he gets over stimulated from the environment, and his sensory ticks emerge,
  • Or worst case, a meltdown; when all of the above implode in a sort of Perfect Storm,
  • There was even the possibility Ethan might want to cuddle, and while cuddling he might want to rub somebody's ear lobes.
Well, the activity happened. The young men came over and they watched Napoleon Dynamite. A few months later another activity was scheduled and this time they watched Princess Bride. Each time they got together a handful of the things that I had forewarned them about took place, including the cuddling and ear lobe rubbing, but the young men were troopers. They kept returning!

Last Tuesday they came again. This time however there was no movie. The Sunday prior they asked Ethan what he wanted to do, and his response was simple, "play Legos." And so they did. Garrett and Brother Beck arrived at 7:00, the Legos were poured out on the floor, and within minutes the fun was happening. It happened for nearly an hour. Then on a sudden, Brother Beck announced it was time to clean up so that the three of them could go visit William, another young man in the quorum who had just been released from the hospital.

My wife turned suddenly. This had never happened. No leader had ever taken Ethan to an activity on their own, I had always been there. But the idea was one that had been discussed for quite some time. We are more than willing to let him go (with a few exceptions) as long as we know the leader understands what to expect, and is prepared to accept and handle anything that happens.

My wife asked, "Are you sure you want to take him?" Brother Beck smiled and said, "Uh, yeah!"

"I don't know how he will react?" my wife continued, explaining what typically happens at other people's houses. Traditionally he runs up or downstairs, having sniffed out the exact location of toys in the house, and plays with them, pocketing anything small and obsessively luring. Ethan always needs to be searched before leaving, and he might have a meltdown when it is time to go.

Brother Beck facetiously said, "I know I'm stronger than he is and I'm pretty sure I'm probably faster. I have two family members in the military, one who is in Special Ops, who have taught me pressure points and tactics. I think I've got this."

My wife smiled saying, "Can I tell you, my husband would be quite grateful you're even considering taking him. It's a hard thing for us to let him go, but it means a lot to my husband that you're willing to do this." -- Yes, I was, and still am! Brother Beck reached Hero Status +1 for this. He had reached Hero Status for an earlier incident with Michael and a very, very large tire, which I still have in my backyard, but that is another story...

When they returned later that evening, my wife asked how it went. Brother Beck said it went like clockwork. They arrived at the house and went inside. Ethan then immediately bolted for the toys. When it was time to leave, Ethan wouldn't, so Brother Beck went upstairs after him and yes, carried him down. He was right; clockwork!
As I think about these events, I am grateful for youth leaders, and the young men who are willing to plan young-man-specific-activities, whether they be Ethan Activities or some other boy, all in an effort to be inclusive, united, a quorum, a body of one.

Besides teaching us about compatibility, imagination, uniqueness, variety, and individual purpose, for the past seventy-six years LEGO has also given us a motto to live by, which our young men and their leaders must already have known...

...The best is never too good!

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