I remember the day I first realized how beautiful and important it can be to relate with someone about growing up special.

I was heading to Kansas from Colorado… a long drive that normally starts early in the morning.  Well, that particular trip didn’t get started until late because I had a lunch date with a friend.  We had not spent much time together before that day, but the time we did have was enough to knit us close together.

For there are times when a friend is connected at the heart and time is not necessary to bring you together.

It was not until that lunch date in Denver, though, that I realized how much we had in common.  As we sat and talked, I heard for the first time about her sibling who had academic challenges, social struggles, and more.  We shared stories about how we handled their unusual behaviors, humorous situations our special siblings dragged us into, and just relished being with someone who understood.

What made the conversation even more poignant was that not only was it my first time to hear her story… it was her first time to share it. Because her sibling’s needs were less severe, her family avoided discussing it with others.  Perhaps they hoped to keep their child from being treated differently or having assumptions made about them.  Whatever the reason, my friend had never communicated with anyone outside her family about the nature of her sibling experience.

I have never had to face the burden of bearing such a secret.  I have always known and (to the best of my ability) understood Alyssa’s disability.  While I may not have had many friends who completely understood my life, I was blessed with friends who related as best they could and didn’t mind listening to my stories.  But I was never required to keep silent about the beauty and the trials that come with life with a special sibling.

As we talked, the minutes turned to hours… and hours and hours and hours. I knew I should leave if I wanted to reach my destination on the same day I left.  But something held me there.  We came alive as we talked. People are not meant to bear their burden’s alone. We are created to relate. To laugh, to cry, to be real.  And for several beautiful hours, my friend and I related.

As others have done for me, I was able to hear the stifled cry of her heart.  To connect with someone who needed to be understood. To allow the pain and love and confusion and joy to coming pouring out in a rush of relief.

That’s a huge reason why I have this blog.

Sometimes, I need to be heard. Some days, you need to know that someone can relate.

Can I challenge us all to something? Let’s not allow our stories to be ones that stay locked inside us. Let us be open to sharing… to hurting… to rejoicing. Let’s be real about what we face so that we can come alive as we relate to each other about the extraordinary life we live.

Who do you have in your life you can relate with? When are the times you most desire to connect and share with someone who understands?