Do You Know How To Be?
Turning 21 is a big deal. In the United States it signals that you are now considered a full-fledged adult. You are permitted to drink alcohol and gamble legally, but more than anything, turning 21 means you are not a child anymore.
When I was 21, I was a senior in college. I remember quite clearly how I felt as I began student-teaching and started preparing myself for life as an adult. I dreamed about my teaching career, the students I would encounter, and the amazing lesson plans I would create! I was full of hope, excitement, and a good bit of anxiety.
Today, my son who has profound special needs turns 21. His life could not look more different than mine did at that age. He is not in college dreaming about his career. He is not pondering his future or how he will make his fortune. He is not chasing a pot of gold or climbing the ladder of success. Those are the things most young men are doing at his age, but Jon Alex operates on a different level. He lives in the grace of each present moment, fully content with who and what he is.He is not clutching or striving, he is simply being, and, like all of nature teaches us, it is beautiful and powerful to just “be.”
It seems our culture is more obsessed with “getting” than being. We want so much. We want the car, the house, the clothes, the stuff, and the stuff to put our stuff in. We drive ourselves into a frenzy over “things.” Somewhere in all the clawing and grabbing, I fear we have lost sight of how to be.
You know, a lot of people might be tempted to pity my son because he will never be a “getter.” Jon Alex will never climb the corporate ladder or the ladder at the playground for that matter. He will never address Congress or even tell me goodnight. He will never do most of the things typical kids don’t even have to think about, like feeding himself or walking. Some people might think that his life is insignificant, that he has no purpose. They could not possibly have it more wrong.
Jon Alex has influenced more people during his 21 years than most people do in their entire lives, and all this without ever speaking a word. He is a source of joy and inspiration to people who are more educated and financially successful than he will ever be. He gives courage and strength to people who are much stronger he is. He lifts and encourages everyone that gets to know him. Most of us could not say that of ourselves.
I wish you could see him. He is sitting on the porch right now watching the same DVD that he has enjoyed watching for 15 years. He is not distracted by what is going on in the news or politics. His life is full and content with simple things. I wish you could see his sweet smile as he sits here enjoying this moment we have together or how his face lit up this afternoon when I came home from work.
He is such a gift to me and has brought me joy and comfort on my darkest days. He has taught me how to find joy in all circumstances. He has taught me how to grieve as someone with hope. I was the one who went to college to be a teacher, but he has taught me more than any professor ever could about what ultimately matters and how to be more like Jesus – 100% authentic, loving, present, and utterly true.
Jon Alex may never live the “American Dream,” but I’m okay with that, and he is too.
Happy Birthday Jon Alex! Thank you for teaching me how to “be.”