As I chewed on the juicy gravy-covered turkey leg, one half of my mind focused on the pleasure and aroma of the dinner. But the other half had a much deeper thought: “What does Thanksgiving really symbolize, and why do Americans value this day so much?” After dinner, I sat on the sofa and pondered over the question. My mother asked what was the matter, and I asked her why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Since she was not born in America, she was never taught the historical background of the holiday; but, from its name, she thought it probably meant we give thanks to someone. So when I thought about someone I should be thankful for, my brother ran and jumped on me. Then I had the answer.
Back when I was three, my life had changed. My baby brother Hunter was diagnosed with autism. He had social problems and would not talk, which made us really worried. Additionally, Hunter was unpredictable. One day, he would be very calm and quiet, but the next day would act like a terrorist and bring chaos to the household. Whenever I was given a new toy, Hunter would always chew and tear it into pieces the next day. When school started, he would occasionally use my homework as scratch paper to color on and tear up. One time in third grade, we had to create a poster displaying California’s history and geography. After spending one month researching and typing the paragraphs, my brother clicked a key on my computer unnoticed and sent my project paragraphs into the frontiers of cyberspace. I was furious, and told my mother what happened, and she told me to forgive Hunter. While I rewrote my paragraphs, I thought about what my mother said, and began to understand her perspective of this situation.
In the fourth and fifth grades, my school opened a special education program for children my age with autism. During recess, my friends would laugh at them because they seemed bad at sports. However, through my experiences living with an autistic family member, my empathy and knowledge helped me train the autistic people to play with my friends. After a month, they were as good as us, and some of them were even better.
During my middle school years, the curriculum was more challenging, and the school days were frustrating. To make matters worse, when I returned home, I had to face my brother’s chaos while doing my homework. Hunter would run into my room and steal my laptop while I was typing an essay, or he would scream and howl like a bear while I was reading a textbook to study for the next day’s exam. But after many months learning in this type of environment, my level of concentration increased dramatically. Whenever my friends and I wait in line, I would always be enjoying a science magazine, and they would ask me how I could possibly concentrate on such a boring topic in such a loud environment. I would then always modestly tell them that living with my autistic brother everyday naturally accustomed me to this reading environment.
Now that I am a high school freshman, I would like to give thanks on this Thanksgiving to Hunter. He may not have been as nurturing as my parents, but because of his mental illness, he has given me a challenging environment in which to develop my tolerance, patience, and focus; the three traits that will help lead me through challenges in the future.