Last night I tuned in to an autism benefit show on Comedy Central called Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education. I was tentative because I wasn't sure what to expect from a benefit show with a cast that drew heavily from the ranks of Saturday Night Live. I've also become skeptical of autism benefits in general, and I feared that I'd see a lot of bathroom humor mixed in with "public service announcements" that featured distraught and hopeless parents sending desperate messages about the crisis of this devastating epidemic that is stealing our children. I expected to hear about the race for a cure, and to see solemn-faced comedians telling me that every minute that passed without a cure was another minute lost for my son.
But I was very pleasantly surprised.
Okay, I admit, there was a bit of bathroom humor. But there was also Jerry Seinfeld. And Stephen Colbert. And - of course - the host who should be President, Jon Stewart. There was even a performance by one of my musical heroes, Elvis Costello. But better than all of that, there were clips of children and adults with autism. There were interviews with parents and teachers. The children smiled. The parents smiled. The teachers smiled. Parents talked about their children with pride. They reflected on how far their kids have come and talked eagerly about their hopes for a very bright future.
The focus wasn't on fear, or devastation, or desperation, or even cure. The focus of the benefit was on the transformative power of education in the lives of people with autism.
It was a good two hours. There was a lot of money raised. There were some pretty good laughs.
And there were some really great smiles.