Today is my niece’s 6th birthday. I have four nieces, three of them were born in the same year (no multiple births; just a coincidence), but this is the oldest of the three babies born in 2011. Her mother is my sister and the one who is closest to me in age. Her mother also happens to be the sister who stalks me the most (yep, I said it). Her mother was also the main person who was adamantly against having children. So when we found out she was pregnant, I immediately knew that I would call the baby “Butterfly” because she would bring about a beautiful change for the family.
Oddly enough, all of my nieces are the only child. When I realized that they would not have siblings, I became the biggest advocate of making sure that they became best friends. However, life never goes as planned. My oldest niece, who is 11yo, lives in another state which is 16hrs away. My three youngest live here in this same city as me. So my new mission became making sure that these three were best friends. This plan still did not work the way I had intended. At this point, I’m lucky when the three of them are in the same room at one time. While I love all of my nieces equally, there is something about my Butterfly…
Different, yet equal….
I knew when she was in the womb that she would be different. I knew that her life would be blessed and that God had a special plan for her. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that she would be born with a [society-perceived] “flaw.” You see my niece was born with Autism. (Pet Peeve #511- a person has Autism, Autism does not have the person. Please always say “[Blank] has Autism”, not “[Blank] is Autistic.” Person FIRST!) No two people with Autism are exactly alike. I like to believe that my niece’s place on the Spectrum gives her a warm and caring heart, an intense love for music, and an uncanny memory retention for dates and numbers. She doesn’t forget anything. She sings, dances, and participates actively in church. And she remembers everyone’s birth date and age (and she will tell anyone she meets).
So again, today is her birthday. Her school gives out a list of her classmates’ birthdays at the beginning of the year and my niece makes it a point to not only wish the classmate a happy birthday, but also buy a card for each student. She makes sure to make that person feel special on their day- I love that about her. However, on her day (which is today), no one gave her a card. Not. One. Child.
Because my niece is six, she probably missed this factoid. I, however, was so hurt for her. In my flawed adult-ness, I immediately thought that Butterfly should stop giving cards to the other kids because they did not recognize her. But then her mother (my sister) informed me that Butterfly chooses to do this out of the kindness of her heart. WOW!
My niece does not give out the cards because she wants something in return, she does it because she wants to. Even at the tender age of 6, the Lord has already taught her the valuable golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. I think for many years I had misunderstood this. I assumed that the Golden Rule meant that how we treat others-good or bad- is how they will treat us. To me that meant that if I am mean to others, they will be mean to me, and conversely, if I am nice to others, they will treat me the same. Instead, what it means is that I should treat others how I want them to treat me, even if they do not treat me the same.
Butterfly has taught me many lessons over the years, including patience and better communication, but this is probably the most valuable lesson ever.
One of the biggest obstacles along the healing journey is learning how to forgive others. As adults, we tend to “render onto Caesar what is his”…meaning, we treat others how they treat us. Not only is this against what the Bible teaches, but it is not healthy. Treating people how they treat us will only further cycles of hurt and pain. Instead, if I love myself and I treat others with love (as I want to be treated), then loves wraps back around to me. It has been said that “what goes around comes around.” So if hate and pain are sent out, that’s exactly what will come back.
As you go about your day, treat everyone in your passing the way you would like to be treated. If you need a hug, give a hug. If you need a smile, give a smile. Be the positivity and love that you need and want to see in the world.