People I Want to be More Like in 2016

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Instead of making resolutions this year I have decided to try and emulate some people that I admire. This is a reflection on some of their positive qualities that I think make the world a better place, and I know I would be a better person if I was more like these unique individuals.

I want to feel free to be unapologetically, enthusiastically myself just like my youngest son does.

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They say, “Be yourself, ” and “Dance like no one is watching.” That is what is embodied in this picture. My 4th-grade son is awesome. He is also Autistic. (No, that is not an offensive term. Please read this information if you are unfamiliar with Identity-First language.)

This picture was taken during his older brother’s 5th-grade music performance. Younger brother had seen the performance, complete with choreography, earlier in the day during  a school assembly. By the time the PTA meeting rolled around that night he had somehow memorized most of the songs AND the corresponding movements. After seeing it only ONCE. The unique way his brain absorbs information astounds me! So he sat there in the audience and participated in the performance, singing and dancing right along with the 5th graders. It was AWESOME. He didn’t care what the people sitting around him thought. He didn’t care that he wasn’t supposed to. He just did, and loved every moment of it. And he ROCKED it. I need more of that in my life. I briefly thought about the possibility of asking him to stop in case he was disturbing those around him. I decided against it since he was doing the same as the children on stage, AND I felt it was important that he feel free to express himself. I didn’t want to squelch his indomitable, exuberant, creative spirit that bubbles out of him. It brings me, and others, great joy.

I want to have a heart full of compassion and kindness like my oldest son.

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My oldest son may be quiet, but he feels things very deeply. From a very early age he has been overflowing with compassion, so much so that he couldn’t even watch certain TV shows because he was too worried about the characters on the screen. My children are only 17 months apart and he has always looked after his younger brother. Even before he could talk he took on the role of protector. I remember how hard it was in those early days to get a toddler and an infant into the car, and once I left the baby just inside the front door of the house while I buckled in my oldest. Even though he couldn’t really talk he began to cry and point to his baby brother, worried I was going to leave him behind. Not much has changed. On a daily basis I watch him continually take initiative to watch out for his sibling.

His compassionate nature revealed itself yet again recently when I found myself tearfully explaining some frightening truths about recent violent world events.  His response gave me hope for the future of our world.

At his request I don’t write about him very much on my blog or Facebook page. He is a very private person and prefers to live most of his life behind the scenes. In contrast, he has a little brother who actively seeks out the spotlight.  While it may seem that I talk more about one child than the other, I love and celebrate BOTH children equally.

I want to make a difference like my friend, and my son’s teacher, Leslie.

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We are abundantly grateful for my youngest son’s incredible caseworker.  She has been with him for three years, and we are well aware that someone who is so invested in our child, so willing to go the extra mile for him, advocate for him and believe in him is a rare gift. She has gone above and beyond the parameters of his IEP to help him, going to bat for him when he needed extra accommodation, and has always been willing to put in extra effort to make sure that he thrives. She has an incredible work ethic, is patient and caring, and has always been a sounding board for me whenever I have had any frustrations or concerns. She has also come up with creative solutions when problems presented themselves. She is genuinely excited and intrigued by the unique way that my son’s brain works and loves teaching him and watching him learn. Another parent has said that, “She has a great ability to see through the behavior and see the child.” That is a crucial skill when working with exceptional education. Leslie has also helped advocate for my oldest son when he was misunderstood and helped him when he struggled, even though he wasn’t technically one of her assigned students.

There are not enough words to express the depth of our admiration for such an exceptional educator. This picture includes a wreath that my son and I made to help express our appreciation. We hope that when she looks at it she remembers how much we care for her, and how glad we are that she cares so much for us. Our school is lucky to have such a dedicated and skilled teacher on the staff. She has a positive influence on the lives of many students, and we need more people like her in the world. She inspires me to try harder and do better.

I want to love and live freely and fully like my friend, Bill.

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The above picture was taken at church one recent Sunday morning after I watched Bill work his way around the room, hugging or shaking hands with EVERYONE. To him everyone he meets is a potential friend. I want to be more like that. I also watched him during the worship service completely investing his entire being in the experience. I was caught up in all the stress of the season and wasn’t really feeling the Christmas Spirit until I watched him and he reminded me of what was important. He “did” worship better than almost everyone else in the room, because most of the rest of us were holding something back. He also did the most exciting Advent wreath lighting I have ever seen, complete with celebratory fist pumps in the air afterwards and inviting the congregation to applaud.

Bill has Down Syndrome. I love the way my church community has embraced and accepted him and recognized that he has gifts to contribute (I wrote about it in “What Bill has to Teach Us”). Bill LOVES kids, and the church has honored his request to serve as a leader in the Children’s Ministry. It brings immense joy to him and those with whom he comes in contact. It also teaches the children important lessons about acceptance and diversity. Yes, it takes some accommodation in order for him to participate, but the benefits far outweigh the small amount of effort.

Finally, I want to be more spiritual like my friend, Dilshad.

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Yup, she is Muslim. I am Christian. But she is more intentional, introspective, and kind than a lot of people I have met in my life. Dilshad is a skilled journalist and is a managing editor for the Patheos website. She writes the blog  “Muslimah Next Door”about her life as a Muslim, a career-woman, a wife, and a mother to three children. One of her children also has Autism, and I have always considered her one of my friends who “get it.” Even though our children are in different places on the spectrum, and are affected very differently, she has always had compassion and understanding during our difficult moments. She also celebrates with us during our victories. We feel honored to have a friend like her to walk alongside during this journey. It grieves me that there are many people out there who may judge and fear her based solely on her choice of clothing or religious beliefs.  I wish more would open their eyes and hearts and to what she has to say through her life and her writing.

What about you? What people do you admire, and why? Do you have any resolutions for 2016?

What will you do to make the world a better place in the New Year?

 

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