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  • Writer's pictureSarah Swindell

A Simple Question

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Has someone ever asked you a question that stops you in your tracks? Well, that happened last weekend at a recent book signing during a Q & A, and let me tell you that simple question has been looming in my mind ever since.

While this question would not even come close to affecting most parents as it did me, and would quickly be answered without thinking twice about it, it brought me to tears.

"We all have heard and read about how Dawson has impacted you and your family negatively. What is something wonderful about him, or maybe your favorite thing about him that brings you joy?"

I looked into the kind eyes of this total stranger sitting out there in the audience and felt a massive lump well up in my throat. I also felt the sudden surge of so many feelings at once. I felt shame, gratitude, joy, and sadness as I glanced over at my husband sitting next to me on stage as I tried to think of how to respond.

The man was right. I spent so much time talking about how difficult life had become after the diagnosis and the pain it caused us. How would one of my typical children feel if they heard me talking about how much they messed up our entire life? Enter the shame stage right.

That shame quickly turned into gratitude and joy that this man wanted to know something good about Dawson, and all I could think of saying through the tears was, "Thank you so much for asking that."

I went on to list all the beautiful things about him and soon realized there were a lot of them. How patient he has made us all. How Dawson has made his sisters into the most loving, caring human beings on the planet that will fight over who gets to care for him after we are gone. How just seeing him smile can make your entire day complete. But most of all, It has been the people who are in our lives because of him. Some of the most incredible people on the planet we never would have met otherwise. I was shocked at how much I could have made that list go on and on.

I have always known just how much Dawson has made us all better people, but he brings us so much more than that, and that question forced me to realize it in an instant.

There is no doubt that raising a severely autistic child is probably the hardest thing Greg and I will ever have to do in our lifetime, and I would not wish that situation on any family. I can say that without feeling guilty because it is 100% true. Watching your child struggle with so many things day after day can be gut-wrenching at times. Not having a voice to express feelings or thoughts is the cruelest thing of all and by far the most painful part.

That simple question has changed everything about how my future discussions will go from this point forward. Dawson deserves way more credit than I was giving him. He did not ask to have autism and would never intentionally hurt anyone or want to be the cause of anyone's unhappiness.

I think it is easy for all of us to dwell on one bad situation, that one nasty comment or that one friend that hurt you. But if you start to think about the good that is all around you, you will quickly notice how long that list suddenly becomes. A long list that comes from one simple question we all need to be asked more often.

Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here!

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