A friend of mine shared a slew of positive messages on one of her social media accounts. It took me a few days to realize she was posting one per day during the month of October, but that was because I took a short social media break. Jumping offline is always good for the mind. It can be very good for the soul also.
Once I logged back in and saw the upbeat messages again, I looked forward to seeing the daily suggestions she shared. Topics like keeping hopeful, setting practical goals, and finding joy every day were peppered on her page. I wasn’t always in a good mood when I jumped online, but after seeing those short, inspiring messages, I would take a few minutes to think about something positive. Be it something my kids did that made me smile, or thinking about a big step Ronan finally made, I was grateful for the reminder to stop, reflect, and be thankful. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches this week, I thought it would be a perfect time to share just a few things that I am thankful for, too.
While I’m certainly not grateful for my son’s vaccine injury, I am thankful that I am more educated because of it. I fully admit that I didn’t know enough when my children were younger. A lot of precious time and more was lost during those early years, but I am thankful for what I’ve come to realize. With every realization, I now know better what to do and what not to do.
With everything I’ve experienced – both the good and the bad - I am thankful that I learned how to advocate for my son. The knowledge I’ve gained in the last decade is incredible. It’s more than I ever could have imaged I would have to learn. What I’ve learned has helped not just Ronan but all of my children. While my typical children don’t need the same type of assistance their brother needs, they’ve gained a unique perspective watching me and my husband take care of their brother. Because of what they’ve witnessed and continue to witness as Ronan’s siblings, it’s encouraging to hear my kids become more vocal in class and within their circle of friends about certain topics, like vaccines and the need for exemptions. I’m thankful that they know the truth and are talking about it. They’re advocating for themselves much sooner than I expected them to have to.
I am incredibly grateful for other advocates, too. To those who paved the way before I came on the scene, like Barbara, Kim, Ann, JB, and Ginger, thank you. From the bottom of my weary heart, I would not have known which direction to go had it not been for the brave moms and dads who started the conversation. Thanks to all who keep that convo going. From our old Yahoo! Group days to the several private FB groups that are still going strong, you will have my respect and admiration.
Where I’ve scaled back some of my efforts within some of those groups, I see new names, new faces, and new energy surfacing in our community. When I’ve had the chance to sit down at the computer, I am in awe when I scroll through my newsfeed. People like Joshua Coleman, Hillary Simpson, and the leaders in state medical freedom groups, like Texans for Vaccine Choice and like Latinos for Medical Freedom, leave me speechless. They have a zest for life and liberty that is unbelievably refreshing.
I’m seeing that positive attitude in other people as well. I’m seeing it in young parents, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve had a few reach out to me in just the last few weeks wanting to know about vaccines, about autism, about what happened to my son, and about their options as concerned parents. Completely understanding the risks associated with the liability-free vaccines their pediatricians are offering, these young moms and dads are saying no firmly to their doctors. Able to make a better decision than I knew to, I am thrilled to see the next generation stand up confidently for their rights.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the politicians, medical people and community leaders who are rising up with the parents and also taking a stand. Saying enough is enough, people like Rep. Posey, Dr. Sears, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are not backing down. It’s been tiring having to fight as much as I’ve had to for my son, but it’s heartening to know that I, and so many other parents, have the support of people like these folks. With their careers on the line, I’m so grateful that they continue to stay in the fight.
This week on Thanksgiving Day, as my family gathers around the table, we will give thanks to these people and to others who’ve blessed our family. After the holiday ends, I’m going to keep in mind my friend’s idea about reflecting on something positive each day. The good days are good. I can always find something happy or hopeful on those days. I can always be thankful about happy and hopeful. But the bad days can be tough. Those kinds of day are a reality for so many of our families, and they don’t take a break just because it’s a holiday. I’m hoping that today is a manageable day and a good day. I am hoping that you can find something positive about today and maybe even tomorrow, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.