Our Lives

Blessed with hope

CORRESPONDENTOctober 19, 2010 

Writing a column about oneself and one's family is, by definition, a narcissistic exercise.

The challenges my husband, our two sons and I face are what make our story worth telling. It would be easy for me to define myself by the struggles and frustrations of raising children with autism and drown in self-pity.

But I read this newspaper, and it reminds me every day that I am a fortunate woman.

I have never had to worry about a bomb falling on my house. I don't stay awake at night wondering whether men with guns will take my boys to become two of the 250,000 child soldiers in the world.

There are a billion people who don't have clean water, and more than 6 million children die from disease related to hunger and malnutrition every year. I know my children will never be among of them.

I will not lose my husband to a mine collapse or rig explosion. When sickness hits, I know everyone in my family will get medical care.

Yes, I have my worries, and sometimes life is harder than I ever imagined. But I am reminded daily that I am a fortunate woman, surrounded by blessings.

I have the best husband in the world - seriously. I have the support of my wonderful parents, Kent and Susan Gill of Durham, who adore their grandsons. And of course my boys, who, most of the time, are bursting with joy and love, are great blessings.

I have been blessed to see many, many people at their most generous. I have experienced strangers offering kindness and understanding, even as I became overwhelmed with frustration. I have met countless teachers, therapists, human services workers and others whose lives are motivated by love for kids like mine.

I am blessed by the state of North Carolina, which funds the program that provides workers who take my boys out and teach them new things, allowing me time to work, exercise and maintain my sanity. These services have made a significant and lasting difference in my family's life.

Lately, my most unexpected blessing has been my job. I work for the N.C. Justice Center, an amazing nonprofit organization that fights to make life better for low-income families and the most vulnerable people in the state - people like my boys.

When I started at the Justice Center in 2005, the boys attended school and I worked full time. Since I decided to homeschool and work part-time, I have had to change my job schedule several times. In fact, as of next week, I am cutting back my work hours - the boys are improving and, as a result, the demands of homeschooling are increasing. When I told my boss and co-workers, they were, as always, understanding and supportive. Regardless of how many hours I work, I will always give my best to my job, because the wonderful people I work with are among my blessings.

But perhaps the biggest blessing I have right now is hope. At many points over the past eight years, I have abandoned hope because believing in a better future seemed like a set-up for heartbreak.

Now, I focus my hope on today. Today, the boys will make progress, learn something new and form new neural pathways in their brains. Today, I will be a better teacher and a better mother than I was the day before. Today will be a good day.

I have hope that great things are possible. And every day lived with hope is a blessing.


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