Feedback Fuels The Fire

“The most wonderful, life-affirming message I’ve read in a long while.”

I felt proud, very proud when I read the above.  It was one of many comments that I have received on Facebook and verbally in response to the writing I have been doing about my special needs son Trot and the challenges and rewards that my wife Anne and I face as parents of a special needs child.

But comments such as the one above are also humbling.  (More on that later.)

What is really neat about this feedback is the sense I have that something important has been put on peoples’ radar screens. This is encouraging to me because it’s telling me that there are a lot of people who are getting the message.  My message is simple:  I am trying to convey the challenges and triumphs of raising special needs children, to support other special needs families as well as to educate the public at-large.  

The feedback suggests I am achieving both goals.  This makes me feel proud.  It also makes me feel that I’m being an even better dad to Trot because, through my writing, I’m doing something that I think will ultimately benefit him.

Before I started writing about Trot and our journey as a special needs family, I felt at the mercy of our situation. Now, after openly writing about the struggles we face, I feel that I have control over the situation. I have drawn from the writing experience something greater that has created a transformation in me. Because of this, I've begun to think of my relationship with my son in a different way. Together, we are making an impact on others but also on ourselves. 

“Thank you for sharing…your 'Christmas Present’ story has added so much to so many of our hearts by sharing the true Christmas Spirit!”

I’m not the same person I was eight months ago. I’m much more confident about my writing, which is very personal stuff. People have come to know me better through my writing, which makes me not scared to put myself out there. I’m spilling my guts about extremely personal stuff -- and also reflecting my frailties. I have dumped it all out there for the whole world to read. 

Opening myself up has not been easy.  I, like so many people, have inner fears and anxieties.  However, through my writing, I have gained the courage to share them. One of those is my constant -- almost obsessive -- worry about who will take care of Trot once my wife Anne and I are no longer here.  Embracing this particular fear and writing about it, has motivated younger  members of our extended family to step forward and start discussing with us how they can help my son in the years ahead.

“I love reading your articles, Trotter! Thank you for sharing the ups and downs and love and blessings of parenting a child with special needs. We live in a somewhat similar universe and it’s hard to understand these challenges unless you’ve walked in our shoes.” 

I have been writing about my son Trot and our family’s journey for the past eight months. My work has appeared in WELD magazine, Over The Mountain Journal, Birmingham Parent magazine and on Al.Com.  In addition, I have created a blog that continues to have widening impact.  Now, when I wake up in the morning, I feel very different than I once did.  I have a higher purpose. I get up and feel energized; each day brings new writing opportunities and ways, possibly, to make a difference.

“Trotter, thanks. As a father, I completely understand your love and willingness to give your life to protect your child. My sister has a special needs son, and he is a blessing to our entire family. God truly has special ways to bless us! Thanks again for sharing."

Now back to the humbling part.  The profound humility I feel comes from the fact that while all this feedback is wonderful, it makes me realize how many people are carrying burdens of their own and that I am helping them.

I am grateful that God has given me this forum; I am grateful that he has given me the passion to pursue my writing.  I am grateful for the wonderful feedback that I have received from so many.  But, most importantly, I am grateful for the chance to make an impact.  

“Trotter — you remind us all of the importance of acknowledging the dignity, value and worth of all human beings — a part of our Baptismal covenant. Your son Trot is loved. He touches hearts in a very special way. Fear not my friend."