Read below for a guest post from Mike George.
I should have been thankful that Ben slept soundly last night – 10 hours, in fact. With the recent return of his seizures and gastro issues, the day could have started off in a terrible state. But I was unsettled from the moment I awoke. Part of it stemmed from my ongoing work-life frustrations and part from the absence of one of Ben’s educational assistants for the last few days. Unplanned schedule changes to Ben’s support team are a constant reminder of just how dependent our lives are on other people.
As I get Ben up and dressed to face this important day, my cell phone buzzes. It is Ben’s other educational assistant texting me to say that the highway has been shut down because of an 8-car pileup. Traffic is going nowhere, including him. My unsettled mood is instantly cranked to a new level. There is no way I can get Ben ready, fed, his bags packed, and him loaded into the van to make it on time for the 10AM meeting at the University.
From the time we were told (23 years ago) that Ben would never walk, talk or go to school, the path to his remarkable university success has been hampered by one obstacle after another. Today is no different. We had been planning this day for months, to bring in a speech-language expert to take Ben’s vocabulary and writing proficiency to a new level. You see, Ben cannot speak, as had been predicted, but relies on an augmentative communication system that is controlled by eye gaze – his eyes – to electronically select and speak words for him. This specialist came into our lives six years ago and is the sole reason Ben has any speech system at all. She has become such a very important part of our lives and, like before, has travelled over 3,000 miles just for Ben. She is freely giving of her time and I’m wasting it.
Frantically, we arrive on campus at 10 minutes past 10. Leisurely walking towards us is Ken, the university’s student accessibility counsellor. He is enjoying the morning sun and isn’t bothered by our tardiness. This is university life. The conditioning of my work life is controlling me, where you’re punished for being late. Ken has instantly defused my nearly hysterical feeling.
Inside the learning commons building, the rest of the attendees are gathered, including our communications friend. Within minutes the discussion turns fun, relaxing, and informative. She is such a believer in Ben and tells the group that she has 35 “Ben’s” on her caseload. Imagine! 35! Why couldn’t we be with her all the time?
Ben is very content and happy that she has come to help, and sports a huge grin when she mentions his refusal to use any eye gaze device the first time we tried. At that moment, I realize just how great a gift we’ve been given. None of our local specialists ever gave Ben a chance, thinking he was too compromised to learn anything. But yet, she saw something, and has given us her best even though she has more than enough obligations back home.
The things that truly matter – Ben’s peaceful sleep, his enthusiastic engagement, and the total presence of our friend – are the things I should be grateful for today. All of the other noise is just that. I need to do a better job at seeing the good and the abundance in my life more often because they are always nearby.
All of these things have shown up at the right time, another reminder through gratitude that there is a much broader plan at work for Ben and for us.
Mike George is a life leadership coach, motivational speaker, and author of Third Time Lucky: How Ben shows us the way. He helps families living with disabilities to believe in a future that is bigger than the past so that they can achieve wildly successful outcomes. This includes healthcare and educational professionals who serve these families. Learn about Ben’s incredible journey at Third Time Lucky.