Traveling with a person of special needs reaps incredibly fruitful rewards. My Down Syndrome sister has done remarkably well. Her life is much improved on the road since leaving the USA where her options were running out.
Her unique qualities insist that my mom and I travel differently and with restrictions though. Our daily plans require tailoring to her specific abilities or lack there of. Living with a person of disability carries with it major challenges. At 20 years old, I have an instinct for independence. My mom tends to be very goal-oriented.
Unfortunately I am not a saint and struggle with the limits a handicapped sister brings.
I am forced to walk slowly, taking about three times longer to do even the simplest activities with Grace had I done them myself. I watch other travelers jump on motorbikes to explore with autonomy and speed.
You know what though? I don’t think I am missing out on anything going the slow way. Walking with Grace has been the greatest secret to traveling. We have discovered the coolest of places and had the best of experiences while keeping her pace.
Standing still to wait for Grace to catch up gives us the chance to see that huge lizard in the leaves and take in the gorgeous views and flowers or see children run out for a second, giggling and playing.
In some ways, I’ve had to give up being a super productive person. I can’t arrive in a city and see all the main sites at all four corners in one day- unless I do it on my own.
This got me to thinking during one of the million pauses in our slow, slow walks together. I had to decide how much significance society’s label of success holds.
Is it a goal worth having to gain thoughtfulness? What about self-control? Am I wasting time on these painfully long walks, if in time, I grow not bitter, but patient?
I have to thank Grace for keeping me, in many ways, grounded. Surely I would be off doing my own thing without her. But I don’t want to be like those who have no one counting on them, no one to support, or be accountable to. I’ve seen that freedom serve as a roadblock. It would be too easy for me to turn self-centered.
Grace doesn’t somehow make me a globally-focused, good-doer.
But she does make me sacrifice. She demands that I wipe her mouth before her shirt gets ruined, to sometimes take her hand to get her moving, to change some important plans in my life.
With her, this journey is not easy and not all about me. She shows me how short my patience is, how needful I am myself of grace and kindness.
Most of all, Grace teaches me how to be a human being, not just a human doing.