Finally, June 14th, 2015 had arrived. I was so elated I didn't sleep a wink the night before. There was so much work and dedication put into this day. For the last two months, I had been fundraising and advocating anywhere I could. Calling every person, and place of business in my phone contacts, and walking door to door for donations. I spent the previous two weeks making my teams shirts and accessories by hand. So yeah, you could say I was pumped! As we walked through the crowds of families, friends, and co-workers, it was clear to see what this day meant to all of us.
And as we strolled around together visiting vendors, smiling at strangers, people started sharing stories. Our whole stories, not just about an ASD diagnosis. But the ripple effect that this diagnosis had on our lives as a whole. The impact only we can relate too and outsiders know nothing about. I found myself in a moment where I was totally excepted and understood by folks, I'd never met before. I couldn't help but feel "These are my People!" Everyone seemed at home with one another. Which is pretty freaking awesome considering, we were all so very different. Different ethnicities, religion, backgrounds, family sizes and professions. And as they called all walkers to the starting line, and gave the ole' "On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!" this ocean of people flowed into the street, and it was beautiful.
And even though the walk was only 1 mile, people were laughing, crying, hugging, exchanging numbers, making play-dates, suggesting doctors and therapist. And all of it came from our hearts. I felt like we all walked a mile in each other's shoes that day.
And these are 5 things I learned, just walking a mile...
1) Few things in life bring solace, like camaraderie among strangers.
Not knowing each others name, but knowing what their family goes through and why. No pressure to make small talk from fear of an awkward silence. You are infinitely connected by a force few outsiders can understand.
2) The bond of an unorthodox community runs deep.
It says in the good book "Love Thy Neighbor." However, in the autism community you can be towns, cities, or even states apart. And still befriend someone that will offer you the shirt off their back or a shoulder to lean on, if you need it.
3) The faith a child has in their parents is unrelenting.
The majority of autistic children do not understand their diagnoses. They look to us as their parents, to be their voices and their pillars of strength. And being only human, we have our moments of weakness, doubt and constant worry. And these incredibly resilient little people never falter. They are by our sides walking and fighting with us, never realizing they're actually our pillars of strength.
4) Marriage will never be the same.
Every marriage will have it's hard times without a doubt. Work, bills to pay, mouths to feed, the lists goes on. Then add the challenges of raising a special needs child and it's a whole new ballgame.
Stress mounts trying to make the best choices for your child and it can easily over shadow a relationship. One parent is overwhelmed, while the other grows resentful and distant. Instead of fighting for your family, you end up fighting with them. Stop it!
Remember the love you had for one another when you first married. The passion, fun and the excitement! (Don't get me wrong... If it's hell on Earth, by all means, get the F out!)
But if there is the faintest hint of doubt when you're walking that thin line of "should I stay, or should I go?" Stay.
Not for the kids, or your partner feelings. Not to save face on the opinions of others. But for the love that created a family and home. Remember to make time for each other. Think about what made you crazy over them when you first met, instead of what drives you crazy about them now. I'm not saying it'll be easy, marriage is never easy. What I am saying, is it's worth it!
5) I wouldn't change my life for anything.
For all the ups and downs life has served us on a platter, with second helpings of eating crow along the way, we must take a step back and take it all in. We would not have been given this life, had we not been strong enough to live it! We have air in my lungs, clothes on my back and amazing kids. If it weren't for those struggles we face, we may not ever know what triumphant glory feels like.
And all it took was a mile walk on a Sunday morning. Alongside amazing people to remind me of who I am, where I came from, where I'm going, & who's going with me.