The most powerful thing we have to offer is our story. Be inspired by lovely stories of lovely lives.
How did you get started working with people that have special needs?
My story starts with my younger brother Willie, who has autism. He’s my only sibling, and he has changed my life in ways too numerous to count. (He’s also the one who came up with the name, ‘A Wish Come Clear’.)
Because of Willie’s influence in my life, I was led to join the L’Arche Greater Washington DC community in 2007. (L’Arche is an international faith-based non-profit organization where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together and create relationships based in trust and mutuality.)
I spent five years at L’Arche DC, serving the community as a direct-care assistant, home life coordinator, program director, and consultant. And these four different roles prepared me to step into the role I’ve always wanted: that of a full-time writer, sharing stories of people with special needs.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from people with Autism, Aspergers, or Down Syndrome?
I’ve learned that the people that the rest of the world tends to discount are the ones who have the greatest wisdom to share. I’ve learned that loving and caring for people with special needs isn’t a burden, but a privilege. And I’ve learned that seeking out the treasures in people, and illumining those treasures through story, is the work I’m meant to do. Through story, I seek to create a world in which we celebrate people not just for what they can do, but for who they are and how much they are able to love.
What is your book Love’s Subversive Stance about?
Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow In Relationship is a collection of stories centered on these questions:
- How can we honor our passions and our caregiving relationships at the same time?
- In loving someone with intellectual challenges and disabilities, how can we become more fully ourselves?
- At the end of the day, what about our lives as caregivers matters most?
This book is NOT a quick-fix. Instead, it’s about telling true stories…the sort of stories that will allow you to become rooted and grow. (Being grounded yourself means you have that much more to offer as you care for others.)
It’s about examining the seemingly insignificant details of your day, and seeing what they say about you and your caregiving relationships. And yes, absolutely, dancing and singing in the kitchen counts. If you can turn dish-washing into a delight-filled memory for someone else, you’re on the right track.
The book contains 90+ pages of stories for people who want to say YES to standing on the subversive soil of love … people who want to celebrate and honor the gifts of their loved ones with autism, Aspergers, Down Syndrome, and other physical and intellectual disabilities.
What makes you smile?
Watching my new kitten Bootsie sleep (this is making me smile right now!). Taking a boat out on the water with my husband – there’s nothing like feeling the wind in your face and having the love of your life at your side.
Gathering with friends and family, with a feeling of belonging with them in my bones. Writing a story and feeling like I’ve said something exactly right. Planning a trip (I love to travel.) Reading great books — Jane Eyre, and anything by Madeleine L’Engle, Anne Lamott, and Sue Monk Kidd. Connecting with people with special needs and seeing how we are all part of the same family. Seeing the small ways in which we come through for one another, the ways in which we say yes.
How do you make your life lovely?
I make my life lovely by giving thanks — for the people I am privileged to know, for the entirety of the life I’ve lived. (Anne Lamott says that some of the best prayers are “Help me” and “Thank you”, and I agree.) I seek to be a person of peace, even as I cultivate a fierce sense of protection around that which is most important to me. For example, I write every day (and have done so for years), and I have to guard that time. Writing is both freeing and demanding. It’s freeing in the sense that it’s what I’m meant to do, and in that it gives me flexibility to work from home and move at my own pace. It’s demanding in that it takes ongoing practice and constant commitment. Writing pushes me beyond where I am comfortable and forces me to go deep and be vulnerable, and yet without those challenges, beauty would not arise.
Caroline McGraw is a would-be childhood paleontologist turned storyteller, digging for treasure in people with autism & intellectual disabilities (& empowering caregivers to do the same). She blogs about loving and caring for people with disabilities at AWishComeClear.com, serves as a columnist and features writer for AutismAfter16.com, and works as a copywriter for non-profits and small businesses with a special needs support focus. An honors graduate of Vassar College, Caroline currently lives and works in Alabama with her husband.
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