For years, I’ve loved a quote by Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The first time I read that quote I pictured myself running those thousand miles. Can you imagine what you’d get to see on that long of a journey!
A former long-distance runner, I loved running through the Texas hill country back in high school. I was state ranked and enjoyed being outside, being on the road, just running. I’d pass ranches, horses, cows, quiet neighborhoods, and also the wilderness.
With youth on my side, I bet I thought I could easily run up to one thousand miles during cross country and track seasons. These days, with youth not on my side, I sometimes need to psych myself up to go just one step.
Take one step toward the file cabinet to file that important paperwork.
Go one step toward the kitchen to start dinner.
Stand up and take one step with Ronan to assist him in the bathroom.
As I prepped this post, my annual playlist I like to share each April, I could only think of one song that I wanted to share. That song came on the radio soon after Ronan’s big sister and I talked about that favorite quote of mine. It’s a love song I heard, but after watching Ronan last week while we were away on a family vacation, the lyrics could be part of his story, my story – our story.
So many times, and not just when we’re away, he needs to be brave. So many times, things are hard for him. They can be for us, too. Too many times, I’ve caught myself thinking…it didn’t have to be like this. But it is like this! For all of us, including Ronan, this is hard. It’s sometimes scary. And it is exhausting. I can’t dwell on the should-have-beens for too long, though.
We may stumble.
We may even fall down.
But we always get back up.
No matter what.
Traveling home from the Pacific Northwest last week, Ronan took the tiniest, baby steps while getting on the airplane. Terrified of the gap between the jetway and the door to the plane, Ronan needed extra time, encouragement, and even a gentle nudge to keep going. Our seats were toward the back of the plane. One very, very slow step at a time, he shuffled from first class to row 28 where his siblings waited for him. Once he got closer, he could see the smiles on their faces. Once he sat down, he could finally relax.
I wonder if that short walk felt like a thousand miles for him. With how long it took him, I wonder if it felt like it took a thousand years also. The passengers behind him probably thought it took him that long. We were first to board the very full and slightly delayed flight. Respectful of other people’s time, we were last to deplane knowing Ronan needed more than a few extra minutes to also get off the plane.
Several of the lines from that song I heard resonated with me after Ronan’s walking, not just on the plane but during other parts of our vacation.
How to be brave?
…Time stands still
I will be brave…
…One step closer
I have died everyday waiting for you…
…I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more…
Brave for him. Brave because of him. One step forward gets us through a tough situation. Another step more gets us to a desired destination. Each step draws us closer together. Sticking together, working together–that’s what’s given me strength as I walk this journey. I will always pray it’s what gives Ronan his strength, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
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