It’s only a few days before Christmas, and even though I’m a dirty heathen, I find myself compelled to reach out to my fellow special needs parents. I understand that it’s not necessary an easy or particularly merry time for many of you. I know that in some ways, this might be the very hardest part of the year. There’s not much in the world with as much power to isolate us as a seemingly constant reminder that the standard holiday narrative is not our own. Happy and understanding families, smiling untroubled kids, a world filled with peace and love and acceptance, all of these can feel far away to us. The Norman Rockwell scenario fed to us by popular media can sometimes feel like it’s winking at us and saying out of the corner of its mouth, “Ah, yes, but not for you.”
I doesn’t need to be this way, I don’t think. Our lives are different, sure, and it’s hard sometimes to recognize the gifts that are given to us all. The joy of a life well-lived, the peace that comes with loving unconditionally and without a script, these can be ours, if we can find a way to see them. It’s challenging, I know.
My gift to you all is going to be brief, which I suppose is a gift in and of itself. Actually, I have two. The first is my wish, my most sincere desire for your holiday season to mark the beginning of a new year filled with promise and with challenges well met. It’s a wish for the paths you can’t see to be revealed, and the ones you can see to prove less stony than they might appear at first glance. I know that sometimes all we have is hope and love, and while I know that’s often insufficient to the tasks ahead of you and your family, I hope for you that in the coming year, it’s enough.
My second gift is something written by a far better writer than myself, about a human being whose wisdom and compassion inspire me to try as hard as I can to be a much, much better person. Ian Brown, the author of the extraordinary memoir The Boy in the Moon, has returned to the topic of the esteemed humanitarian and disability advocate Jean Vanier, in a piece for the Toronto Globe and Mail titled Jean Vanier’s comfort and joy: ‘What we have to do is find the places of hope’. Vanier established the disability community L’Arche over fifty years ago, and his philosophy towards the disabled has greatly informed my own attempts at growth over the past few years. Please take a few minutes to read it and absorb what these two very human visionaries have to bring to the world.
“The more we lose, the more we come close to the reality of what it is to be human. Which is to accept our weaknesses, to discover that they’re beautiful. So many people are running around doing lots of things, but they’re controlled by anguish.” — Jean Vanier
Please have the very happiest of holidays and the merriest Christmas if that’s your thing. The beauty of the world can be hard to find for those who live on the heartbreaking side of it. But it’s there. This season, I hope you can see it shining brightly just for you.
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