A Person of Influence in Her World

by Sep 23, 2021Encouragement1 comment

What does it mean to be a person of influence? One mom's reflections as her daughter who lives with autism approaches her 24th birthday.

A person of influence means something different for guest blogger, Karen Jackson. She reflects on the influence her daughter Samantha, who lives with autism, has been in the lives of many.

At dinner the other night, my husband and I were talking about social media influencers. The conversation got me thinking about what it means to be a person of influence in our society and about my daughter, Samantha, who turns 24 in a few days.

Samantha is our middle child. She has autism and needs 24/7 supervision. She is also a person of influence in my life, as well as others. This may seem incongruent with having a disability, so let me explain.

Samantha has a team of caregivers that support her everyday living and help our family so that my husband and I can work outside the home. Since she is not able to hold a job right now and her circle is quite small in comparison to many others, the questions surface in my mind; “What is Samantha’s role in this world?”.  As a Christian, I ask, “What are the good works (Ephesians 2:10) that God has planned for Samantha?”

I recognize that these may seem to be lofty questions regarding a person who is primarily non-verbal and requires significant care and supports. Yet, I know I am not the only parent of a child significantly affected by disability who has asked these questions.

I do not have the answers. But I have something to contribution to the conversation because I have raised Samantha for 24 years thus far and am involved in the faith and disability community as the founder of Faith Inclusion Network.

Since Samantha was quite young, we have had the assistance of caregivers in our home. We started with training local college students. When Samantha turned 14, she started to receive in-home care through Medicaid. We have had dozens of different people in our home ever since, sometimes only for a few weeks or months. Others have worked for a year or more. One young woman is practically family, and comes every so often to provide overnight respite.

Transitioning to a new caregiver is difficult for Samantha, especially if she really liked the previous one who was with us for a significant amount of time. Still, Samantha does it well. I used to be sad for my daughter when a caregiver she had grown close to had to leave. I have learned something about resiliency from the way Samantha accepts the situation, new people in her life, and their departures.

In pondering Samantha’s gifts and God’s role for her, I realize the important and even profound effect she has on the people in her life. From family members and friends to people paid to be a part of her caregiving team, Samantha shares her generous spirit. She humbly allows people to help with the intimate care of bathing and dressing. She shares her love of the outdoors and community events, swimming, the zoo, and museums. She is a faithful, Catholic woman, attending Mass regularly and participating at her church as she is able. Samantha does not accept others lightly, but quietly evaluates their sincerity and gradually lets them into her life. Once she does, she is loyal and loving.

In Samantha’s room is a bulletin board filled with pictures of people that are or have been a part of her life. I am pretty sure that, if I could ask them, they would say she has been a person of influence who impacted them in a significant way. The caregivers pictured would say they remember her well, that she was an important part of their lives for a time. Samantha’s brothers, who are pictured on the board, have written beautifully about their sister’s influence in their lives. Samantha has of course, made a monumental impact on my husband and me.

As my beautiful daughter turns 24, I am confident that God has a plan for her life, that He has always has had a plan for her. The world’s view of what it means to be successful and contribute to society may be wildly different from what my daughter has to offer, but she is a person of influence.

Happy 24th birthday, Samantha!

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By Karen Jackson

Karen Jackson is the Executive Director of Faith Inclusion Network (FIN) of Hampton Roads where she lives with her husband and three children in Norfolk, VA. She is also the author of Loving Samantha. You can connect with Karen at the Faith Inclusion Network page.

1 Comment

  1. Bernadette Miller

    Karen, you are an inspiration to so many parents who struggle with which words to convey about our loved ones.
    I appreciate your insight on Samantha’s resilience.
    My daughter has the same virtue. Samantha is truly blessed with a remarkable family.
    Wishing her a blessed 24th birthday.

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