I recently spoke before 2nd-5th grade students during a career day event at Estes Elementary School. Whenever I speak about my career path before audiences I naturally share how having a brother with a disability provided me with my drive and purpose.
After my presentation, a little girl came up to me and stated in her little 2nd grade voice, “I have a brother with Autism”.
I said to her, “You do? Then welcome to my special club young lady, because we are the cool sisters that God picked to be their siblings”.
She responded in an unsteady and scared little voice, “Yes, but I feel sorry for my brother”.
I kneeled down to look directly in her brown eyes that were starting to fill with tears and said, “He doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him, he wants you to be his door”.
She looked at me strangely. I wasn’t sure if I could say the right things to this 2nd grader in the moment I had, because I could hear her teacher encouraging everyone to get in line to go to the next presenter in another classroom. I said, “Yes a door! During life be that one person who opens the door of possibilities, the door to love, the door to friendships, the door to something he needs, but when you open that door don’t be afraid to walk through it first and take him with you. But most importantly, don’t forget to be his sister.”
Helen Ries was in her forties when her father died in 2011, and then her mother in 2014, a turn of events that left her as the main caregiver for...