She was volunteering at the Autism Speaks booth on the first floor of Mall of America when I passed. I have a special heart for all sorts of special needs, so the opportunity to connect with another individual from the autism spectrum disorder community was an honor.
I asked Lisa one question. “If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?”
This was her response.
Lisa was receptive, but wasn’t quick to answer. She was thoughtful, contemplative. This seemed to be a loaded question for her.
As I chatted with Lisa, I discovered she’s a lot like me. The way she responded was similar to the way I’d respond if a random stranger approached me with such a deep question. We spent 20-25 minutes together, which was the longest I’d spent interviewing anyone for the series at that point. I’m not a surface level person, nor is Lisa, so our time spent connecting was good. Every minute, a pleasure.
Lisa wanted to know more about me before we dove deeper into talk about her. I didn’t plan on diving deep or long with anyone when I conceived the series, but it’s in my nature, so how could I decline? I shared with Lisa, this “random stranger,” bits and pieces of my own dreams. Perhaps this helped her see me as a real person rather than some random blogger asking a random question? The truth is, if you’re willing to be completely authentic and go deep with me, I’ll go deep with you. Period. So, thank you Lisa, for your heart, for your contemplative nature, for your sincerity and sensitivity.
When Lisa and I got around to addressing the question “If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?,” Lisa shared this.
Her son has autism. He’s 15 years old and was diagnosed when he was two years old. If she didn’t have to worry about money, she’d “get him all the therapies he needs,” and “everything he needs to support himself and be independent.” Lisa would “do what [she] could to make life easier for her family.”
I asked Lisa one of the most sensitive and difficult questions you could ever ask a parent of a child who has special needs. “Do you feel like you had to forgo or change the dreams you had for your life because of your son’s special needs?” Lisa responded simply. “It is what it is.” Sometimes, yes, you feel like a prisoner. It’s “just challenging and hard and different,” she said. She’s not looking for pity. She’s looking for “understanding and support.”
Lisa recognizes that she’s not alone in parenting a child with special needs. She’s aware of all the parents who face similar, even more challenging situations than her own. So she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She loves her son and wouldn’t trade him for the world.
As Lisa said, it just “is what it is.”
Lisa’s husband is self-employed as a contractor, so fortunately, “they don’t have to rely on her income” for the family’s finances. Before her son’s diagnosis, Lisa was home, but she “never intended to be home so much.” Lisa works in direct sales as she’s able. Her hours are flexible. It’s been hard for her to commit to a regular full-time job because of their son’s special needs. If she had her choice, she’d rather do something “more consistent” that “pays every week,” but direct sales allow her the flexibility she needs to change her course at any minute to be with her son.
Lisa and her husband chose to have one child only. They’ve committed to their marriage and want to do everything to keep that strong.
Lisa would do “a ton more traveling if [she] could.” Recently, she had the amazing blessing of traveling to Africa for a month. This was something that had been on her bucket list, so her husband modified his work schedule for the month so he could care for their son after school and during evenings and weekends, and they committed to making this happen for Lisa.
I loved the way Lisa’s eyes lit up when she spoke of Africa. I knew it had moved her heart. I knew the trip had touched her in ways she’d always dreamed of. I knew that experience would stay with her for a lifetime.
My biggest prayer for Lisa is that she’ll find creative ways to check off more of those bucket list items in years to come.
So what can we learn from Lisa?
Life doesn’t always go the way we planned. The hopes and dreams we have for our lives can change dramatically, in the blink of an eye. But we must persist. We must make the best. We must love, anyway. We must trust, anyway. That God works all things together for those who love Him. That He will bring bits of beauty up from the ashes, anyway. That He can make our littlest and biggest dreams come true, anyway. Even when life’s not easy. So get out that bucket list. And don’t forget it. Because God can make a way, even when the way seems impossible.
I’d love to know. Do you connect with Lisa’s story? Is there some nugget of wisdom you can take and apply to your own life?
*This post is a part of a month-long 31 Days series titled Dreams from the Street. If you’d like to read more from my series, click here and you’ll be brought to the series landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked! You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days, and I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson! I’m so glad you stopped by. Make yourself comfortable and take a peek around the place. You’re welcome back anytime.