Why should we be in such a desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. (Henry David Thoreau)
It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada. This morning, probably like many other people, I took some time to reflect on my life and what I’m grateful for.
However, as I sat in my office alone, a feeling opposite to gratitude started to come over me. I started to feel sad. I started to think about the things in my life that I don’t have. The things that I have wanted to achieve, but that haven’t yet come to fruition. The missteps I’ve made. I started to think about other people who I admire, and I started to feel jealous of their success, relative to mine.
Thankfully, these emotions quickly evaporated when two familiar faces walked into my office:
My son Cohen was born with special needs. He has Diploid-Triploid Mosaicism, which affects his physical body and cognitive functioning. He is a miracle, and he spent the first nearly six months of his life in a hospital bed.
His ever present companion is a toy pig, aptly named, “Piggy”. Cohen generally uses the pig to express his emotions. When he is upset the pig will literally go flying. As you can see, this little pig has logged many miles. When Cohen is sad, the piggy is sad. When Cohen is happy, the piggy is happy.
This morning, independently, the Piggy wanted to give me a hug.
I used to think that Cohen was sent into my life because I could help him. I thought that I was strong, and I was brave. I would protect him from the cold world. I would make sure that he had sunshine in our home, no matter how dark it was outside. I would never make him feel less than what I believe he is.
I think now that perhaps he was sent into my life because he could help me. Anyone with a special needs child knows the remarkable emotional power that these children possess, and this boy has taught me the same lessons, over and over and over again in my life.
March to the beat of your own drum. Love life just for the purpose of loving life, independent of any reward, independent of what people think about you. Success is short-lived. What matters is the person that you are, and how you treat others. Be a light to others, independent of what you may get from it, or what may come into your life because of your actions.
My son Cohen truly marches to the beat of his own drum. He loves a little pig, and he takes that little pig with him wherever he goes. He loves strange TV shows, and playing weird games. His world is one of imagination, wonder, curiosity, love, and fun. He doesn’t care what other people are doing. He likes what he likes. It’s almost like he is emotionally bulletproof. Each day he is happy for the sake of being happy. He isn’t driven by external rewards. He isn’t driven by anything, other than enjoying each moment of life as he sees it. He will often sit for hours studying maps – not because he is supposed to learn them in school, or because there is something in it for him.
His life is not driven by external rewards. He is not motivated because of what’s “in it for him”. He does things for their own sake. His actions are pure.
He is also incredibly tender. He is unusually sensitive to the emotional needs of others. Often he will get emotional if thinks that someone else is sad.
And every time I need an emotional pick up, that dirty, smelly pig always seems to want a hug.
I want to be like my son Cohen. So much of our world is spent trying to impress each other by getting stuff that we think matters, or “achieving” something that we think is worthwhile. But are all these successes and achievements really that important? Other than making ourselves feel good. Do they really even matter? Couldn’t we just make ourselves feel better like Cohen does? Acting just for the sake of acting?
I hope that in my life I can create just for the sake of creating. I hope that my actions can be driven by an internal motivation, not because I want success, or because I want to be recognized by people, or because I want to buy something.
I want to be like Cohen. I want give hope when no one is watching. I want to learn just for the sake of learning. I want my actions to be pure, and not always needing some “prize” to justify my efforts.
So thank you son, on this Thanksgiving Day, for being the example in my life that I continually need. I love you.