Rose-colored glasses get a bad name. Whenever I hear someone accused of having rose-colored glasses it usually means they are unrealistically optimistic or ignoring reality. Maybe. But I believe everyone needs a pair of rose-colored glasses.
You can’t wear them all the time, but having a pair at your disposal is an essential part of happiness. I learned this when I was eight, just before my second brother was born. I had eagerly imagined all the cool things I would teach him, like how to fish, hunt, and play ball. But it all crashed the day my parents came home from a doctor’s visit and said my baby brother had mental retardation. I was crushed. All my hopes and dreams for our relationship suddenly flew out the window. Later I came to realize how selfish this was. But at eight, I wasn’t ready to put myself in his shoes. Instead, I saw it as some kind of sentence foisted upon our family. This was the second time.
I was 16 months old when my first brother was born. It never occurred to me to question his mental retardation until I was six, when I became aware how older siblings were teachers of their younger brothers and sisters in ways I couldn’t teach my brother.
I don’t remember exactly when, but after a while I realized I had to let go of my expectations for him and get on with life. That’s when I put on my first pair of rose-colored glasses. Maybe we could still have that brotherly relationship, even if it wasn’t all I first imagined.
But the reality is that both brothers have taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined teaching them. Each used the greatest instructional technique available, teaching by example. I’ve had living examples of what success really is, what faith means and the value of forgiveness. And I have had examples of why disability can be such a misnomer. I’ve learned from my brothers’ examples whenever I put on my rose-colored glasses.
With my glasses I’ve seen how success is simply getting up one more time than you fall down, that faith is really trust without reservation, not belief without proof, and that forgiveness is another word for freedom. I’ve seen how everybody can teach something to anybody and learned that doing your best is more important than being the best. I’ve been taught how we achieve our greatest value in serving others without judgment or expectation.
Each of these lessons I’ve learned from my brothers. It took me 30 years to learn them and I’m still learning. Years ago, nobody imagined my brothers living in their own homes with their own friends and holding jobs like anyone else, let alone being the teachers of life they are.
So to me, rose-colored glasses give you lenses through which to look at the world without restrictions defined by somebody else. And I believe everyone needs a pair of these.
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