Every summer I went to Boy Scout camp. While I enjoyed the hiking and fire building and working on my merit badges, I often felt a little lonely. Night time was the worst. I loved it when I got a letter from home. They were always brief; filled with what mom was cooking for dinner that night, how the tomatoes in the garden were growing, or what my dad was working on out in the shop. But they always ended with the reminder that mom and dad loved me and that they were looking forward to see me and hear all about what I had done that week. Whenever that feeling of loneliness would poke itself into my mind, I would pull out the letter and reread it, reminding myself that I really wasn’t alone.
Last week I was struck by something my son Chris said in his comments as David’s brother. He wrote, “Your kids can feel as alone as you.” For the past five years I have said countless times to countless moms and dads that they are not alone. Never once did I stop to think or remind the parents we serve that their typical kids also needed to be reminded that they too are not alone. Like campers huddled around a fire feeling far from home and alone they need a note, a reminder, a message from you as their parent reminding them that they are not alone and are loved as much as their brother or sister who has special needs.
Several weeks ago I read a blog written by Ellen Stumbo entitled, “To the typical siblings.” Ellen writes a letter from a parent to a typical sibling of a brother or sister who has a disability. You can read it by clicking the following link:
As I read the letter I wished I would have written something like this to my boys. She communicates so well what I would have wanted to say and what they needed to hear. So I decided to take her letter as a template and rewrite it from me. Here is what I came up with:
Dear Chris and Dan,
I know you have had to sacrifice so much as David’s brothers, and I wish you hadn’t. For the many times you have thought it wasn’t fair, Mom and I have felt it too. And if you’ve had to miss out on life experiences, please know that we wish we could offer you the world.
Perhaps at times you’ve felt overlooked, because David’s needs demand all of our attention. We hope you know how often we think about you and of the wonderful young men you are becoming. We are very proud of you. You make our lives so beautiful.
Thank you for sharing how David’s disability has affected you. Yes, there have been sacrifices and some things you’ve had to give up, but you have gained so much from having David as your brother. There is no doubt God has used David’s disabilities to shape you into who you are today. You are both compassionate, caring, accepting, and kind human beings.
There is little doubt both of you are more mature than others your same age. You have probably had more responsibilities than most of your peers. I guess in some ways you’ve lived a different life, life impacted by disability. We are so proud of you. There is no doubt that because of your belief in the value of every life, your compassion for others, your faith in a good and loving God, you will go out into the world and change it.
Thank you Chris and Dan for being you. Please don’t ever forget we love you. If you ever wonder who we look up to, it’s you. We could not be prouder or love you more fiercely.
I wonder if you might find a few minutes this week to write a letter to each of your kids who need to simply be reminded they are not alone. Feel free to write your own, use Ellen’s or my letter as a template. It doesn’t have to be long, just a note from mom or dad reminding them that you are proud of them, that you love them, and that they are not alone. I bet they will hold on to it and read it the next time they feel alone.