As I nestled into bed and turned over to rest for the night, a thought animated to life.
This revelation which laid dormant in the recesses of my mind for most of the day would stay silent no longer.
Has this ever happened in your life?
Your kid does something.
It’s something he hasn’t done before – at least not in recent memory. It’s not a big thing. But it’s an action that is significant enough – one-that-would-not-let me-sleep-until-I- acknowledged-it-enough – that I needed to remain awake, remember what happened, and honor my child.
This noteworthy action is a stepping stone that could change our child’s life and our family’s life for the better.
So, last night, I declared to my ready-to-go-to-sleep husband, “We had a victory today.”
John inquired, “We did?”
“Yes,” I affirmed. “Jake did something that he hasn’t done – like ever. Jake asked to walk the Tilikum Bridge. He initiated this family activity. All by himself. We didn’t have this walk-time on our to-do list today. And even when we said that there were probably going to be people there, Jake still wanted to go.”
John replied, “You’re right.”
“And when we arrived and began our trek over the bridge, Jake didn’t become anxious. He was open to wandering and exploring without his usual concerns or time demands. He didn’t ask how long we would walk, where we would walk, or when we would be done,” I continued.
“This was a definite victory for us today,” I reaffirmed.
For many months of our pandemic life, Jake hasn’t been too keen to leave the basement (where we are staying as we wait to return to South Africa) . He is aware of the virus. He understands how contagious it is. In addition, Jake knows that we need to keep physically-distanced from people when we walk. Jake knows that the virus has prevented him from experiencing the rhythms of life he has come to enjoy during his visits to Oregon.
Yet, for some reason, Jake rose above his fears and concerns about the virus and asked to take a walk across an unfamiliar, but familiar bridge. We have surveyed the Portland bridge from afar for years. If you are not familiar, the Tilikum Crossing or Bridge of the People, is the largest car-free bridge in the United States. This cable-stayed bridge was built to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, the Portland Street Car, the MAX transit line, and TriMet buses to connect the east and west sides of Portland, Oregon.
The bridge’s name honors the Multnomah, Cascade, Clackamas and other Chinookan Native peoples who lived in the area. Tilikum is the Chinook word which means people, tribe, or family.
Jake didn’t know this information about the bridge.
He just likes bridges.
He was ready to cross a new one and make a new connection in his life.
Thus, John and I refused to squander this moment.
We embraced it.
We affirmed Jake and made our way to the People’s Bridge of Portland.
As most of you know, Jake is a person with autism. We acknowledge that Jake’s anxiety disorder often serves as an obstacle to Jake’s engagement in the day-to-day goings-on of life, as well. It’s difficult for Jake to overcome his fears. It’s especially challenging to combat a virus he cannot identify, understand, and has no control over. Rather than take a risk, Jake has often chosen the strategy of hunkering down in a basement that appears safe and secure – only leaving it when he thinks he has control over the variables of the day.
Of course, like all of us, Jake doesn’t have control of anything, but he likes to think that he does. 😊
Therefore, Jake’s desire to walk in a fairly populated area in a new place was a big deal.
Over the years, we’ve talked about exploring the Tilikum bridge and Willamette River pathways nearby, but we had never done it during our visits to Oregon.
Until Jake asked.
Until Jake decided that there was something he would like to try, and he would like his family to join him.
For many years, I have prayed these words over my son:
For God did not give Jake a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.
New International Version, 2 Timothy 1:7
As our family sauntered across the bridge and then down the nearby pathways along the Willamette River, Jake, Caleb, John and I had no sense of fear – only power, love and yes, self-control. We managed the transportation variables of the day – the bikes, the pedestrians, the buses, the MAX train, and yes, the Portland Street Car – with ease, with interest, and with joy.
Jake did it all.
And that’s a victory.
We’ll take it – especially at a time when things are not so easy for Jake or our family.
I won’t go to sleep until I remember and count these victories – especially during a global pandemic.