We all have unique qualities that make us all very different from one another. It may be physical traits, special talents, where we come from, or even our likes and dislikes. Sometimes our differences are in the form of challenges that we may have.
Everyone is fighting some kind of battle. That we know for sure. No one’s fight is harder than another’s, it’s just different. But when a lot of your challenges are social and you’re perceived different from others in the way you act, socialize, and make friends, it’s a special kind of hard.
That’s Autism for you. It makes it hard for you to make friends. Sometimes it makes it hard for your family to make friends or even keep friends. It can be a lonely road and sometimes very isolating.
Many times we say “Different Not Less” which applies to the individuals. But truth be told, being different does mean less in some ways. Believe it or not, the kind of less I’m talking about is also freeing in that it is a daily reminder of what we truly need.
Recently I’ve realized more and more that while we need to be kind to everyone, we don’t need to be everyone’s friend. Not like facebook friends because let’s face it, a lot of those people are just acquaintances really. I mean in the true sense of the word. Those people that truly get you and are there for you and your family, in good times and in bad. It’s a lesson my children have been learning all too often lately and not without some heartache. It’s been particularly hard for our daughter.
I try and see the good in everyone, but I also couple that with a healthy dose of reality. I know that the word friend is thrown about very easily, without much thought about what it truly means. Quite often I remind the kids to be kind to everyone they come across, even if that person isn’t kind. I also tell and show them what real friendship looks like in the people and families we surround ourselves with. They see who makes an effort with us and those we make effort and space for in our life.
I have explained to them that they don’t have to hang out or socialize with everyone they know. We’re all different and we all gravitate toward different kinds of people. But I’ve also told them to value true friendships they’ve built and that they should nurture them. It takes real effort to be a good friend. You can be nice and respectful to someone without feigning interest in them. You can be accepting of someone and their differences without pretending to be their very best friend. That’s honest and still kind. But being a fake friend is worse and just plain cruel.
We don’t get it right every time, but we do our best to live out our faith. As a family, we strive to love all people, even those that hurt us the most (that’s always the really hard and tricky part). In a world where these types of qualities aren’t always valued, autism is just a fraction of what makes our family different. And while all those differences together have not made everyone a friend to us that we come in contact with, they have truly surrounded us with the best people.
It’s a small circle of families and individuals, but the bonds are true. They are friends in the true sense of the word. They are friends no matter the time or place. More than anything, they are genuine friends that value our kind of different and that is something special.
Yes, being different in so many ways has meant less friends over the years. If we wanted quantity over quality, we could see that as a problem. But it’s actually been one of the biggest blessings. It has really drawn us toward the most amazing, faithful, thoughtful, kind, and generous people and away from those who don’t appreciate or value us.
So we will continue to embrace our different, even if we don’t have the most “likes” real or otherwise. The number of people that actually treasure that doesn’t even matter. We find our worth in our God alone. We will still try to be kind to every soul we come across, even if they don’t turn into a friend or even if they pretend to be one. But we won’t apologize for our differences or for having some of the most basic expectations of friendship, like honesty and inclusion. You have to genuinely value our friendship. You have to be real. We don’t do fake for quantity’s sake. Less will always be more when it comes to having authentic friends.