It’s February, the month when we express our love to our Valentines with special dinners, cards adorned with hearts, chocolate and flowers. It’s a time when we open our hearts.
This year, I want to share with you a love of my life who seeks nothing in return for the love she freely shares with anyone…and anything. For you see, my youngest sister, Shawn, never learned that strings are attached to love. She never learned that love could be used as a tool to get what you want. And she never learned that the heart is anything but open.
When I was 10, Shawn came into this world and immediately faced more challenges than most of us can imagine. Cerebral palsy. Grand mal seizures. Intellectual challenges. We say people like Shawn have “special needs,” but people like Shawn are models for the rest of us who become trapped in our minds and led by our egos.
Any parent or family member of a “special needs” child will tell you this. They are fully aware that their child is love incarnate, and just as aware that they have so far to go just to measure up to this guide who has come into the world with such a pure heart.
Shawn doesn’t expect anything in return for the love she shares. She is present with those who are with her. And in her presence, it feels good just being, whether that means holding her hand while looking at watches in Wal-Mart, sitting next to her as she colors a picture of a cat, or sharing a bowl of popcorn as we watch a video.
I’ve always believed that the people who suffer the most prejudice, the most ridicule, are the souls who are the bravest among us – for choosing what appear to be the most difficult roles to play in this lifetime.
But now, I see it differently. They didn’t choose the toughest path, but the easiest. All they have to do is be themselves, and be love, while the rest of us stumble over our insecurities and struggle on our eternal quest to be happy — just to be like them.