Who has heard that catchy new tune from Alice Merton, called “No Roots?” If you haven’t, and you decide to YouTube her video and thus end up getting the song stuck in your head, I apologize. 

Sort of. 

Music is so cathartic yet joyful for me. I am one of those people who finds deep inspiration in lyrics and quotes. I am fascinated hearing other’s people’s “why,” about their journey, learning their story and/or listening to their message. Music is powerful, isn’t it?

“I like digging holes and hiding things inside them,
When I grow old I hope I won’t forget to find them.”

Both in my personal journey and in fulfilling my professional career calling, something that has always been important to me is to never, ever for a moment forget where I came from. I won’t forget the people who have touched me, or whom I have touched in some way, no matter how big or small. 

As I scrolled through my Facebook photos this evening searching for an image I wanted to share on tonight’s post, I took a brief stroll down memory lane (well, not so brief … I mean, thouuuuuusands of photos, people, THOUSANDS!) – through many tough family moments,  through the ups and downs in the world of autism, through the gain and loss of relationships, friendships, and loved ones, through my recovery, through my profession, and through my own path towards learning who … LOVING WHO … I truly am. None of those, as one can imagine, have been easy. Loving yourself, as Brene Brown says, is sometimes one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

This photo was the image I remembered posting years ago from my office – the “bully free zone” as my old Service Center team will no doubt recall (the “safe space” before safe spaces were a “thing”). I dropped my beat up 1996 Penn State McKeesport leather folder that day from my desk. The folder  contained a pile of notecards, letters and trinkets sent to me from people who told me how much my support meant to them. Many were mothers of children and teens with autism, but there were a few who were self-advocates (er, activists) or other community connections. Handwritten notes are a sign that you touched someone’s mind, heart in soul so much that you were worth a few extra minutes of gratitude. This picture documents a small sampling of the lives I have been privileged to touch by not only providing information and resources, but by exuding transparency, repetitively opening old scars, and being as real as I can be through sharing my story. It is true when it is said that it is truly selfish to keep our story to ourselves.

Sometimes, our stories are the key to unlocking someone’s dungeon. 

Sometimes, our stories help others to feel comfortable enough to come forward and ask for help.

Sometimes, our stories provide companionship to those who feel alone in whatever battles they are fighting.

And sometimes, showing our appreciation to someone else may be a game changer for them – for their day, their week, their month, or a really bad year.

Each and every one of these notes will stay with me forever, in my folder, in my mind, and in my heart. I may not still be in touch with every note’s author, but I’ll never forget who wrote them. It is I who is so very lucky to have such reminders to ground me … to root me.

I encourage anyone who is reading this to take time this week – hell, make it a weekly ritual – to demonstrate your gratitude to someone. Handwritten notes make incredible mementos, but if you don’t have handy stationery and must send an email or even tag a friend on social media, just do it. Even better, call someone to catch up, or invite them to lunch or dinner so you can tell them in person! I had a wonderful call with another “autism warrior mama” last night, and I have a lunch meeting scheduled tomorrow with another gladiator who I once stormed our nation’s capital with (and would board that bus again in a HEARTBEAT).

Let someone (or many someones!) know how important you are to them. Give thanks. Remind someone that they matter, and that this world is so much better with them in it. I promise, you will be so glad that you did. Relish in gratitude. It changes everything.

I’ll end my thoughts tonight with some photos of a necklace given to me by my ride or die sister from another mister. It sums up what I’m trying to say so beautifully and simplistically, reminding us we are all connected.

“Like branches on a tree, we grow in different directions … yet our roots remain as one.”

Author: Catherine Hughes

Passionate Advocate. Innovative Storyteller. Engaging Strategist. Author. Editor. Blogger.

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