A mosquito lands on my leg, and I swat it away. I’m in our front yard, pulling weeds with my husband, Jonathan, and trying to understand my own confusion. It’s the perfect time of day to be outside, just before the sun sets in our small town in Alabama.
As I pull out the roots, I’m thinking about the conversation I just had with my mom and my brother Willie. I’m thinking about how, for all the knowledge we as humans have gained, there are still so many things we don’t know. For example, we don’t know precisely why one person has autism and another doesn’t.
If you’re a sibling of an individual with autism, you get that this isn’t an abstract inquiry. It’s a visceral, tugs-at-your-stomach kind of question — why not me? You’re not sure if knowing an answer would change anything; you just know that you’ve always carried that question with you.
And my confusion comes down to this: It’s a complicated thing, sometimes, to accept my brother exactly as he is and, simultaneously, to hope and work for better. For health and healing, and a more welcoming world.
As I keep pulling green shoots from the gravel, I think: It’s no wonder we haven’t ‘solved’ the bigger mysteries yet. After all, we don’t know the answer to so many smaller, everyday questions, either.
We don’t always know what one another needs; we don’t always know what we, ourselves, need. We get only occasional windows into one another’s minds and hearts … and, if we’re honest, we’d admit that we only occasionally clean our own windows well enough to let others see through.
In one of Madeleine L’Engle’s books, A Severed Wasp, a character named Felix Bodeway says: “…The only way we can have contact with people is through the windows in our rooms. You get what I mean? And some people have more windows than others. And everybody’s windows get dirty.
So there have to be window cleaners. I’m one. At least maybe I will be one someday. That’s what I want to be.”
Thinking about figurative windows reminds me of literal ones. My husband has replaced two windows this week, seizing the opportunities afforded by two rainy days. Watching him work on this house of ours is an inspiration to me. When work on one task is derailed by weather or wait-time, he moves to another.
“It’s always the little things,” he says, appreciating each new detail and pointing out how it enhances the whole. He works with patience and precision, and every day, he makes progress.
We fix our house one day at a time. We learn and grow in small spurts. And it’s such a lengthy process, this seeking to love. There will always be more weeds to pull, more improvements we could make to our new (old) house. And there will always be further to go on this journey, more answers to seek out.
But I have to believe that the answers to the bigger questions will come through more clearly if we take the time to tend to the small shoots of love in our care.
If we take the time to call our siblings and parents and friends.
If we apologize when we’re wrong, and speak truth when it’s right.
If we give ourselves times of quiet, times to listen to the voice of love that whispers to us from within.
If we pull weeds, one by one, up from the ground.
If we are faithful to these small tasks, tending to them with love …
I can’t help but believe that we’ll help beautiful things to grow.
When has doing a ‘small thing’ made a big difference in your life?
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- I’m honored to be a part of Kerry Magro’s just-posted list, “100 People Making A Difference for Autism“. Kerry and I are both columnists with AutismAfter16.com, and he has an incredibly inspirational story. Definitely check him out!
- Next week, A Wish Come Clear is going live! I’m scheduled as a guest on Heather McCrae’s Neurodiversity Radio program next Monday, July 23rd, at 8p EST (7p CST). You’re more than welcome to tune in for the (free) show.