This is a picture of me, my cousin, and my brother (left to right). I’ve wanted to tell this story for so long and tried many times, but I couldn’t get past the emotion. I’m going to rip off the band-aid today.
My cousin and I are a few weeks apart in age. My granny kept both of us when we weren’t in school/pre-school. We were raised together, almost like siblings. I knew that he was different, but probably not the same way that an “outsider” might look at him and think he was different. He can’t speak… can’t really feed himself… has to be taken to the bathroom… really can’t do very much on his own. Yet, he taught me huge life lessons.
When we were little, my mom was a single parent. I think my granny always tried to over-compensate for things I didn’t have. So, birthdays and Christmases were like hitting the mother load. One Christmas in particular, I was sitting on her living room floor. I was around five or six. Gifts were being passed out and my stack ended up surrounding me like a fortress of materialism. I remember looking over at my cousin’s stack. He had a few boxes, which I knew were clothes. He had a new touch and feel cardboard book (because he had worn the last one down). And, he had a plastic bag… the kind you get at the grocery store. The best thing he had… was a huge smile. He was so happy with that book and that bag. I can’t even tell you.
I looked at my castle of presents and felt sadness. I can’t tell you that I made a stand and told my family to donate it all to charity or anything, but that moment impacted me. It impacted me so much that I am moved to tears 40 years later just thinking about it.
The lesson I learned, right there, was contentment. We fill our lives up with so much stuff. We must have the biggest, fastest, best, newest, most… and we must have it first. We buy things we can’t afford to fill a space in ourselves that stuff will never fill. You know what does fill that space? Jesus, #1… #2 is relationships… people… friends… family.
Now, I’m not saying that all things are bad and I’m not advising you to purge your possessions. I am saying that you should spend more investing in the people around you. Become a better friend… hug a neck… send the card… love more… I promise (and you can hold me to it) that your empty spaces will be filled.
Another important lesson I learned from my cousin is that God made each of us uniquely. We are all different, but we each have something to give. Even if you can’t communicate, you can teach… and even if you know everything, you can learn. Open yourselves up to learn from those around you. And, remember that you are teaching those around you, even if you don’t realize it. What are they learning from you?
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14