In October, 2007 we took a family trip to West Point. During our walk through the scenic grounds my James saw the word "Perseverance" engraved on a bench. He said, "Look Mom, this is my word."
I was so taken back that I had him sit on the bench so I could take his picture (and his brother Harry couldn't resist getting in the shot).
At the ripe old age of nine, he knew what it meant to persevere. Two years before this picture was taken he was diagnosed with Asperger's, a form of Autism. Many of you reading this know someone who knows someone who falls into this category.
It was very, very hard for him to function within the world he wanted so badly to be part. To give you an idea of what his struggle was, when you and I walk into a room we see approximately 25 things, when James walks into a room his brain takes in many times that, let's say 25,000 images and thoughts.
With all this in his head, his ability to communicate naturally was a struggle.
Over the past ten years he learned to practice certain steps so that he could see and hear what he needed to learn to be where he wanted to be. Knowing where he wanted to be, who he wanted to be with and how he wanted to feel was the greatest gift he gave himself.
His motivation to persevere came from within.
James's indefatigable pace empowered me to push harder in all the areas of my life including the one as his mother and advocate.
Last week I delivered him to school to begin his freshman year at college. This right of passage gives him the chance to be one with the big, beautiful world. In this new place he will enjoy meeting and becoming friends with all kinds of people who bring their own experiences with perseverance to the fold.
As I drove home, my heart was heavy and at the same time I felt a sense of relief knowing he was were he was supposed to be.
Then I saw a sign for West Point.
This adorable picture came into my head, as did a bigger message that we are all looking to be part of something. The secret to getting there lies within us. We are free to believe we can have it and that nothing is stopping us from achieving it.
The location of this word on the stone bench on the grounds of an institution where individuals come to study and be of service to our country is so powerful and is not lost on me.
In our lives there will be things that come easily to us and things that do not. There will be victories and there will be defeats. And there will always be someone there to do it with us. We don't need to persevere alone.
Nine years ago it would take my child to get me to be still with a word right in front of me that ironically he could see and I could not.
It was as if he knew I would need it now.
Jeanne M. Stafford is a professional speaker and communications trainer. Stafford trains her audiences and clients to communicate without a script and think of YES as an improviser does. Jeanne is writing a book about communication techniques she learned through her adventures with Improv, Asperger's and Politics. Sign up for her FREE 30 Days of YES and find out how using YES Words can empower you to possibility. Follow Jeanne on twitter @jeannestafford and visit her website http://jeannemstafford.com