When my girls were little they loved unicorns. Maybe because they were so girly and special and magical looking – the stuffed kind usually came pure white, with pink or purple manes and sparkly horns.
Do you know what a unicorn is? Really? I looked it up. It’s described as a legendary creature – wild, hard to capture, a symbol of purity and grace. But they don’t exist – and never have. They aren’t real.
But yet they’re all around us – in books, fairy tales, toy stores. And in the last few weeks I’ve heard two references to them, with totally opposite intent, from two people with very different attitudes toward life.
One was in a book I’m reading. It was a full 180 degrees from the positive and encouraging books I usually pick up… The author of this one has a pretty cynical outlook on life. She’s been hurt by people, time and again, and she talks about trying to reconcile with the family members she’s estranged from. Eventually, she just can’t forgive them….Don’t try it... She warns. It’s a unicorn. It doesn’t exist, so don’t waste your precious time and energy.
Her analogy stuck with me. Because she sounded so sad and desperate. I can’t forgive that person. I can’t restore my relationships. To think I can is just chasing unicorns.
And I kept this little phrase in my head, thinking of tough problems we all face, and it got me a little bit down. I started wondering- what about me? I’ve got some dreams I keep chasing. When I think I can tackle the tough problems in my life – make dreams come true – am I chasing unicorns? At some point should I just give up?
But then I got to see my friend Trisha (who lives 2 hours away) for lunch. We had been planning this lunch for awhile – a nice long catch-up over yummy food and coffee, since we only see each other once a month or so. And lunch with Trisha will make you feel like you can tackle the world’s toughest problems. She’s an encourager and a fighter. She’s also an A-plus “get things done” girl, which is why God chose her to be mother to Jaxon, a now 13-year-old boy with autism who was diagnosed before autism was a household word. And Trisha has fought every step of the way to get Jaxon the best treatment, the best education, the best caregivers she possibly can. This has involved, in part, raised voices, a healthy dose of stubbornness, and the education of (in no particular order) medical professionals, teachers, hospital administrators, friends, family, gossips, insurance companies and (in one of her finer moments) a grouchy and unhelpful flight attendant.
So with Jaxon thriving in a specialized school right now, Trisha is working ahead, planning where he will go when he turns 18. Somewhere with some independence, where teaching will continue, but also where he will have a community of caring friends and professional helpers. And, if you have touched the world of people with disabilities at all, you know that finding just the right fit for children, who then become adults, can be VERY DIFFICULT to say the least. You might call this – the fighting and the scrapping for therapy, education, insurance coverage and dignity for your child — unicorn chasing.
But not Trisha. Her face lights up when she talks about the type of place she wants to see Jaxon when he reaches adulthood…the loving community, the therapeutic atmosphere, the beautiful setting, the relationships, the work, the spiritual life, the supported independence.
“It doesn’t exist, so we’re building it. I’m building my unicorn,” she tells me over coffee and cookies. She and her husband, in partnership with a school and other parents, are praying about it and working for it and funding it and they are building it. And it’s going to be hard and tough and a lot of work and then it’s going to be wonderful. I can see it like she can, like it already exists.
“Everyone has always told me that what we need isn’t there. But I say it can be. They say it’s a unicorn…. So I’m building my unicorn. Because my kid deserves it.”
God knows our dreams. He knows our desires, our wants, our potential. He sees us work hard and fight; fail and then succeed. He knows the hurts and the harms and the doubts we all experience. But He takes the harmful things and works them for good. He takes the ashes and creates beauty. He stores great treasures in plain old jars of Clay. He gives us gifts that at first might look like burdens.
My take-away was this: when you’re “chasing a unicorn” – something new, unseen or hard – you have to think positive. Don’t give up too easily. Your dream might seem unreachable, or impossible, but you might be wrong. It might not exist today – no one can see it yet – but that doesn’t mean you can’t build it.