When was the last time you had employees? People who were able to feed and house their families because of the job you supply and the paycheck you offer?
When was the last time you produced something physical that could be bought or rented by people who wanted or needed it?
When was the last time you invented something that would make work or play or life simpler or more fun for people around the world?
How about the last time you took your education or talent or knowledge into the home or school or life of someone struggling with the need for it? Offered something that was exactly what they needed in that moment, enhancing lives or even possibly saving them?
For many of you the answer to one or more of these questions is yesterday. For some of you perhaps, it's been a while. For me the answer to all of these questions (and many more!) is a quick and honest no-brainer: never.
And for years I worried that because of this, my life had very little value.
I tried to hide my pathetic self behind excuses. "I have to be home with my kids." "My mom wants me to watch my brothers." "I don't have a green card"" etc.
While I hid behind these excuses I continued to feel valueless, and rarely explored the possibility that I may be otherwise. And so, years were wasted. It's not that I had no value in those years, just that I didn't feel my value, or explore its potential.
Eventually, however, I began to truly hear what my husband, mom and sister had been insisting for years. That I, little ol' me, was in fact very valuable. But how can this be? I have no job! I can't fix anything! I have no employees! I don't understand politics! I can't even vote!
I can, however, edit some articles for my mom while she works with special needs adults and kids in Beirut, Uganda and Kansas, and post them for her. I can accept a job from my mom, emailing and phoning the media in the hopes that they'll help her be heard by more parents and professionals around the globe. Maybe by interviewing her or otherwise sharing her message. I can invite my often overwhelmed once autistic brothers over for dinner and offer them my full attention and the gift of laughter. I can volunteer at my boy's schools and games--even if I know nothing of baseball and am a terrible coach! (My idea of coaching T-ball was singing songs about running bases and pointing out how adorable the kids looked in batting helmets.) I can hand tools to my husband while he fixes cars, and pull our broken down vehicle with a borrowed truck and a chain, on the verge of tears for fear that I would do it wrong or break something--yet do it none-the-less! I can fly around the country to babysit my nieces, my sister happily paying me for the comfort of knowing that her girls will be safe and loved while she works. Also comfortable with the knowledge that her money will buy my family fantastic groceries! I can be open and honest with family and friends, connecting with others so that we can have a place to explore hopes and fears with no judgment and a willingness to share ideas!
I can make mistakes and learn from them. I can start an autism community page and share what I have learned through my years of being a mom, daughter and sister of autism. One who was slow to learn, but learned none-the-less!
I can write articles like this so that others, who may be forgetting to see their value, just might look again. I can volunteer my time at functions and for ideas and groups that I believe in.
And I can actively, noisily, obnoxiously, creatively and unconditionally love my children! I can expect them to be passionate, happy, proud and kind by consistently being so myself!
I can remember to see my value and believe in it. I can remember to encourage my boys to do the same.
And at the end of the day, I can make myself a coffee, pour my hubby a tea and make a huge bowl of popcorn so that my family and I can enjoy each other while snacking, chatting, laughing, guiding and learning. Connecting. And while I rub my husband's broad shoulders, after he has worked twelve hours at the glass factory and paid some bills, after the boys have gone to bed with full bellies and laughter lingering in their throats, I can remember to be happy.
You see, to me, it's all about value.