Throughout my life, I’ve come across some great people, ones that enriches my life, believed; supported me, helped me learn things I wouldn’t know otherwise and someone I know that I can talk to and know that they hear and understand me. An elementary school teacher (and wonderful friend) Joe Defino Jr. has done all that and then some, not just to me but to the community that he serves, all with his heart and creativity.
At the time I first met him, I was going through my own perfect storm, my parents were going through a divorce, settling into a new school and puberty, all within one period in my life where I felt alone and unsure. Then, a relatively new teacher came into my life and made me realize that all the things I was feeling at the time were totally nuerotypical for anyone, Spectrumite or not and offered me a light, a beacon of hope and most importantly, his friendship, all while not asking for anything else in return. It’s something that I hold most dear to me and I’ll always thank him (and by extension, his whole family) for that.
Ever since, he’s been a go-to for me if I need a shoulder to cry on, someone to bounce ideas off of or just for support, he’s been there for me more times than I can count. He not only supports me but also does so for the entire community, as is evident in his most recent endeavor, Hope Rocks, a festival of hope and support that we need now more than ever with the epidemic of young people committing suicide and dying from drug overdoses. Throughout his teaching carrer, he’s been to 9 funerals, just in the past 3 years alone, over 27 in all that time! In a time where the world would want us to be callous, indifferent and uncaring, Joe is sharing his light to show to others what is evident to me, that hope is there for the asking, hope is present, hope shines and quite frankly, hope rocks!!
So, not only is this a blog post to highlight Joe as a person, but this is also me adding my voice to his, letting people know that it only takes one person to make a difference in lives so if you ever feel like you’re down and out, depressed, or even suicidal, DO NOT HESISTATE TO LET PEOPLE KNOW!! I can’t stress this enough and if you need any more prodding, come on down to Cantine Field in Saugerties on August 17-19 and I can bet you’ll find support, you’ll find kindness and perhaps you’ll find the answers you’re looking for. I close this blog post with a poem I wrote for Joe and for his mission to spread hope and compassion to those he meets:
By Brian Liston
For Joe Defino Jr, a true friend and beacon of hope-
In our tears, darkness, fears
That we are not alone to share our
Until next time, don’t forget to…