1. Find joy in the little things.
Neil loves balloons- even enough to steal them out of the hands of toddlers. His eighteen- year- old self has always been in awe by the way they dance around weightlessly in the air. When he has a balloon in his hand, he automatically forgets about what is playing on the television and reenters his own happy world. He doesn’t need loud, flashy things to make him happy. He just needs something wonderfully simple.
2. Show my parents more love.
My mom and dad are everything for Neil and I. They have never once complained about Neil’s autism. He has never been able to say a “thank you” and rarely gives hugs, but that never stopped their outpour of love. They made sure to spread their attention and love to me as well. My parents always told me that taking care of Neil was their job, and all I needed to do was love him. They didn’t want me to have to grow up too quickly to learn to be a better guardian of Neil. I have the best parents in the world, and having Neil in my life was the most important example that demonstrated this fact for me.
3. Have patience.
Perhaps this is the most important lesson my brother has taught me. Temper tantrums are a weekly, if not daily, occurrence in our household. As a child, I used to be really embarrassed of the loud cries Neil would produce while we in public. Airplanes, grocery stores and restaurants were all places that would garner stares from onlookers when Neil’s latest tantrum took place. I would wish that I could disappear while my parents struggled to pacify him. As I got older, however, I grew into my role as big sister/ protector and realized how difficult it must be for him. It is hard having so many feelings and little way to communicate them to others. He taught me to learn to be patient with him during his bad times because sometimes a little patience and compassion is all anyone needs.
4. Be thankful that you have the ability to have those daily complaints.
I’m not going to lie, I can complain a lot. “I don’t want to write this frickin’ essay on Chinese military history” or “this traffic is awful” are phrases I have uttered just yesterday. But quickly, I remind myself to be thankful for these issues. Doctors have said Neil has the mind of a three- year- old that will probably never allow him to communicate with words. At least I have the ability to go to a great school and learn new things everyday. Traffic might be slow, but at least I have the ability to go on public transportation by myself and be independent.
5. Be you.
Every human has his or her quirks, and honestly that is what makes this world great. Neil has taught me conformity is overrated and the best thing we can do for society is bring our unadulterated selves to light.