Monday, 14 November 2011
This post is about a life changing lesson on charity from my three year old, Brady. What you’ll read below is a pretty special event that happened in our family. It may not seem like a big deal to some of you, and that’s fine, but hopefully reading it with a little more intent than celeb gossip or the latest news about a social media blunder will help you feel the overall depth of this lesson that I believe we can all benefit from.
We’ve never talked to Brady about the fact that Collin has autism. We haven’t felt like it was really necessary up to this point. We know that there will be days when Brady questions Collin’s behaviors, or wonders why he hasn’t hit certain milestones in his development, but for now, as far as Brady is concerned, Collin is the prototypical big brother.
Our decision to not use the word autism when talking to Brady about Collin is a conscious one. It’s the same reason we don’t ever introduce Collin to people as “our son with autism.” We don’t hide it, but at the same time we don’t want his disorder to be what people use to identify him. He’s so much more than a diagnosis. Collin has an amazing ability to light up a room. It’s a gift that we don’t want people to ignore due to preconceived notions or judgments stemming from “what they saw on 60 minutes that one time.”
He’s his own little person with his own personality traits and quirks. One of his favorite places in the world is the swimming pool. If he didn’t have legs I’d swear he was a mermaid. Excuse me, a merMAN. I’ve never seen anyone his age move around in the water with such ease. It’s a pretty remarkable thing to watch. Aside from the swimming, his personality really stands out when he’s in the water. He laughs and smiles and looks people in the eyes. In some ways it seems like water is his first home. I guess technically, it is.
Because he loves the water so much, it’s also a bit of a danger zone. We’re all weary of kids near water, but with Collin’s Houdini-like escape tactics and his love for the pool, we have to keep an extra close eye on him any time we’re around a place where he could end up swimming — voluntarily or otherwise. My parent’s have a swimming pool in their home. To get into the pool you have to open a set of doors with elevated handles. The handles are out of Collin’s reach so as long as he’s on the inside of the house, we usually let him run around and do whatever he wants. The pool itself has a retractable cover on it that holds up to a 300 pound person. Even if he made it through the doors somehow (accidentally left open, perhaps?) he still wouldn’t be able to get into the pool without an adult uncovering it.
Even with those safeguards in place, I’ve had him get away from me before. One day after swimming we were rinsing off his life jacket and his swimming suit. I turned around for literally two seconds and before I knew it he had run and jumped right into the deepest part of the pool. Collin doesn’t understand that his life jacket is what keeps him afloat so he has no fear of the water. It’s a double edged sword. I ran to the edge of the pool ready to dive in and there he was, doggy paddling and holding his head up above the water. Now I know that if he had been there for long he would have tired out and sunk to the bottom. Luckily, I was able to pull him out without any additional drama.
Brady Teaches Me About Charity
That was probably the long way around, but I wanted you to get a sense of Collin’s love for all things water-related and the lengths we go to in order to keep him safe. Brady and Collin have both been drilled ad nauseam about the importance of staying safe in the water.
One day everything came together in an event that gave me a serious jolt. It seemed insignificant at the time, and likely still seems insignificant to a lot of people, but it changed me. It made me feel a deeper responsibility for the people around me. I felt like I needed to have more concern for the well-being of friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers. I felt a need to have charity.
Here’s what happened:
Brady and Collin were both ready to swim and were standing about ten feet from the edge of the pool. I started to uncover the pool and Collin got really excited. He didn’t have his life jacket on yet (duh, dad) and he darted toward the edge of the pool. He was headed toward the steps so I wasn’t very concerned, but I never could have anticipated what happened next. Brady — the little brother — reached out his hand and grabbed Collin’s.
“We need to wait for Daddy, Collin,” Brady said.
He wasn’t agressive or forceful. He was gentle and his voice was low. The amazing part was that Collin stopped. He didn’t fight, and the two of them stood there holding hands and waiting for an adult to get into the pool before them.
Brady easily could have let Collin run by. He didn’t have to intervene, but he knew that Collin was headed for danger. He protected him.
Pride filled my heart. As far as I was concerned, Brady became the best little big brother on the face of the planet in that very moment. It was almost as if he knew that he’d be spending a large chunk of his life looking out for his big brother, even without really knowing that Collin might need someone to lookout for him. For Brady, protecting the people he cares about is what you should do, not what you have to do.
It made me wonder: Do I have charity? How much better would things be if we all took the time to look out for the people around us? If we knew that someone was headed toward dangerous waters, what would happen if we gently extended our hand?
I have a feeling that lives would change. They would change the same way they did for me that day at the pool. You?