In 2016, 10-year-old Benjamin Giroux was given an assignment in his New York school. The assignment was to write a poem about himself and use the phrase “I am” to start a few couplets in what he wrote. What came out of Benjamin’s mind, though his fingers, and onto his paper was so insightful and moving it went crazy viral when his dad posted it.
The driving force behind the poem’s virality is the fact that Giroux is autistic, and his poem was an attempt to give insight to people what it’s like being an autistic child. When the poem was posted by Benjamin’s parents, it’s somehow found got the attention of the National Autism Association, who posted it on their Facebook page. From there, it blew up, and to date has been shared on the social media network more than 38,000 times.
Autism studies have given the medical community — and the patients and loved ones who live with it — vast insights over the last several decades. Still, there might not be anything as poignant and powerful as the poetry of a 10-year-old who is autistic themselves.
I am odd, I am new,
I wonder if you are too,
I hear voices in the air
I see you don’t, and that’s not fair
I want to not feel blue
I am odd, I am new
I pretend that you are too
I feel like a boy in outer space
I touch the stars and feel out of place
I worry what others might think
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink
I am odd, I am new
I understand now that so are you
I say I, “feel like a castaway”
I dream of a day that that’s okay
I try to fit in
I hope that someday I do
I am odd, I am new.
Perhaps one of the things about Benjamin’s poem that made it so resonant is his observation that everyone is a little “odd,” to use his word. Sure, it’s heartbreaking at first to realize that this boy understood he stuck out, that he might be labeled as “odd,” but some. However, his line, “I understand now that so are you,” gets right to the heart of the issue.
We’re all odd or eccentric in our own ways, regardless of who among us is on the autism spectrum. It’s a simple but truly wonderful observation tucked neatly into the prose of a child who had not yet even begun puberty. Benjamin’s poem makes him seem wise beyond years, even if, tragically, it was the judging glances and mocking laughter of others that gave him this incredible insight.
Giroux’s poem inspired a hashtag, #oddtoo, that was adopted by autism awareness advocates. The outpouring of support Benjamin got was immediate.
When Bored Panda caught up with Benjamin’s parents, they said he’s now in eighth grade and doing well. The pressure of writing something as viral and well-received as his first poem has kept him from dipping his toe back in that pool, but by all accounts, he’s happy and thriving, enjoying drawing and making music.
Here’s what the master poet looks like today.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.