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Calls to Action

What it is to Live, Laugh and Love

This guest post is from Kaitlin Balmert, a loving sister of a brother on the autism spectrum with a story to share.

My brother is my hero. Though he is ten years younger than me, I find myself looking up to him; this does also mean literally as he is quickly approaching six feet tall at the age of 14. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism which presents difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, amongst other things.

Things have not always been easy. When it comes to school, homework and even some daily tasks, there are always curveballs and struggles. And while these have been difficult on my brother, as well as my parents, he always seems to come out with a smile and a laugh.

I have never met a more loveable and genuine person. He is the light in the room. His innocence is captivating and his laugh is contagious. He is pure at heart and makes life an adventure. While I hope I have taught him some life lessons, I can’t begin to tell you everything he has taught me.

He has showed me what it truly means to enjoy life and appreciate the simple things, like being in your pajamas, watching cartoons on a Saturday morning with a good bowl of cereal. I love celebrating holidays with him, such as Christmas. As we grow older, the spirit and excitement of Christmas seems to fade, but not at my house. Decorating the tree and looking at each ornament still means as much now as it did when I was a little girl. We still put cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas morning, there is joy; the same joy I’ve always had since I can remember and it has been kept alive because of him. I’m a young adult at the age of 24, but when I’m with my brother I get this charismatic energy that makes me feel as though I’m an invincible kid again, laughing over silly jokes or sharing conversation on the newest Pixar movie.

In this fast-paced world, we don’t take time to notice everything around us or appreciate the simple joys in life. He has truly taught me to live for the now and enjoy the moment. We all face struggles and hard times in our lives that knock us down, but it’s the way you pick yourself up and carry on that makes us stronger. Bad days come and go, but remembering to laugh and smile in between makes the world a whole lot brighter.

I recently moved from my home of Pittsburgh to Chicago, and while homesickness is always lingering, I take a piece of my brother with me everywhere, every day. In his 14 years of life he has taught me things I couldn’t learn in a classroom or from a book. He is my hero, and I only hope someday I can repay him for all of the beautiful things he has shown me.