Jersey Boys

If someone had told me that I would write two posts in a row about Bruce Springsteen, on a blog about parenting children on the autism spectrum, I’d have thought they were crazy.  Maybe I’m the crazy one, because here I go with post number 2.

Last Thursday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off their latest world tour in nearby Hartford, Connecticut.  In the middle of the day, my wife called me at work to tell me that her sister has an extra ticket and asked for a ‘permission slip’.  I admit, my first reaction was jealousy.  My second reaction was also jealousy.  I fortunately got my act together for my third reaction and said "Sure." 

I left work early so she could meet her sisters at a 200 year old tavern nearby (did I mention that I was jealous?).  She had no idea where her seats would be but was just looking forward to a fun night out. 

Several hours later in Hartford, my wife was wearing a bracelet for her "seat" which happened to be in the standing room only section directly in front of the stage.  My sisters-in-law kept telling her "Don’t tell Shawn!"

As she worked her way forward, she spotted a youth, about MJ’s age, wearing the same contractor’s hearing protectors that MJ wears in noisy environments.  She also noticed the young man flapping his hands.  His face lit up and he began flapping more excitedly as the band took the stage.  In between songs she struck up a conversation with the boy’s mother who, with her husband, had traveled from New Jersey to bring her son to see The Boss.

As the concert started, mom and dad took turns holding their 11 year old son, mom on her shoulders and dad in his arms.  My wife helped support him on his mother’s shoulders and a fireman from New Haven did the same to help dad bear his weight.  

Early in the show, the boy’s mother tried to hold up a banner.  She struggled trying to get into a position in the front row while holding her son on her shoulders.  A woman standing in the front row saw what was happening and took the banner and held it up for her.  The sign said "Your Music Taught our Autistic Son to Speak, Thank You".  Mr. Springsteen saw the banner, read it, and walked over to the young man on his mother’s shoulders and handed him the harmonica he had been playing.  The younger Jersey Boy lit up and he played the elder Jersey Boy’s harmonica for the rest of the show.  My wife observed a few tears, in addition to her own, and noticed that the people nearby moved to form a protective barrier around the family, making sure they had the space they needed for their son.

OK, I’m still a little jealous, but more than that, I’m touched by the kindness that so many people showed to this boy and his family that night. 

The words from song The Long Walk Home played that night sum it up:

Here everybody has a neighbor
Everybody has a friend
Everybody has a reason to begin again
My father said "Son, we’re lucky in this town,
It’s a beautiful place to be born.
It just wraps its arms around you,
Nobody crowds you and nobody goes it alone

– Bruce Springsteen

I imagine tonight, somewhere in New Jersey, there’s an 11 year old boy happily playing The Boss’ harmonica.   Just a couple of Jersey Boys.

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12 Responses to Jersey Boys

  1. Shawn says:

    I generally avoid commenting on my own posts, but consider this an “Epilogue”.

    After posting this last night, I found that this story had been shared elsewhere on the internet by this young man’s parents. There were hundreds of responses to their story, every one of them upbeat, congratulatory, or sharing tears of joy. I’ve intentionally avoided using the young man’s name as I don’t feel it’s my place to infringe on his or his family’s privacy. For that same reason, I won’t include the link to their story. The family shared theirs and their son’s name but I wouldn’t do so without permission. Better safe than sorry.

    It was really cool to see the parents reach out directly to my wife in some of their posts and she managed to make contact with them late last night. It’s a small world and the family has relatives just a few miles away from us.

    Lastly, I hope I got the story, and the words right. It’s easy to get details wrong when you tell a story second hand. It’s also possible to write something that may unintentionally offend when writing about someone else, especially someone I don’t know. I hope that’s not the case and that I got the story pretty close, but I’d be happy to make changes if I’ve messed up. I truly look forward to meeting this young man and his parents sometime. I see a lot of parallels with my own sons. Too many to list here.

    I know that for Lee, its been a reward to find connections in unexpected places. These are the kind of stories worth sharing!


  2. kristina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this—-the music, the way everyone helped to hold the young man up, the harmonica, the Boss….when do you get to go?

  3. Heather says:

    Hi Shawn – Thank you so much for sharing our story on your blog. Lee was wonderful to us that night. I had to laugh when she told me she was having a night out with her sisters and then she wound up next to us helping us with Eddie (we don’t mind sharing his name!) Please feel free to post the link to the ‘other site’ if you feel it is appropriate or that others would be interested. It was truly a life changing night for us.

    As far as when you get to go see Bruce – we may be able to find a spare ticket or two for NJ in July :-)

  4. lceel says:

    What an amazing story – and so well told. Well done, you. And what an incredible insight into ASD. And what does that say about The Boss? Thank you for sharing.

  5. Club 166 says:


    This is a wonderful, uplifting post, and well told. There must be some onions around here, because I feel a tear or two coming on myself.


  6. Kim says:

    What a moving story! Lee, that must have been an incredible evening. And for the record, I’m soooo jealous!!!


    From a house on a hill a sacred light shines
    I walk through these rooms but none of them are mine
    Down empty hallways I went from door to door
    Searching for my beautiful reward
    ~Bruce Springsteen~

  7. Shawn says:

    Thanks Heather for permission to link the story on Backstreets. Lee has suggested that we all make a trip down to the Meadowlands to see Bruce in July. I’m just not sure about the kids.

    Here’s the link to the story and lots of comments from people that were there. Joe is not the only one that felt a tear or two coming on.

  8. babs m says:

    Wow! This brought tears to my eyes too just reading it. So often megastars are wrapped up in themselves and don’t recognize things like this. Our Little Miss, too, has often been spurred by music…her first song was “Over the Moon” from Rent!

  9. Deaf Mom says:

    Love the lyrics and love the way the story unfolded!

  10. Wade Rankin says:

    Sorry to be so slow in joining this conversation. This is just a terrific story that speaks to how wonderful people can be. As a long-time fan of The Boss, I can’t say I’m surprised by his generosity of spirit, but it’s great to see such an example. Thanks also for introducing us — albeit anonymously — to parents who share their lives so lovingly with their child.

  11. Randy says:

    Great story and so well-written. I actually stumbled upon your story when I googled a few lines of the lyrics from The Long Walk Home. As you may know, Bruce endorsed Obama yesterday and in his endorsement he used the same lyrics. My head went blank as to the name of the song although I knew it was on his current CD and thus I found your blog. I am incoming Board Chair for my local United Way and had to forward it on to my board…very inspiring. Thank you.

  12. Anne Harrington says:

    I am wondering what happened to Oakland New Jersey Bruce, (ANNA)!

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