Key Thoughts

Lessons I’m Learning from Silas


Last fall my wife and I were approached by a good friend of ours who has a developmentally delayed (we shall henceforth refer to this as DD) son of 23. His name is Silas. His mother, Katherine, asked if we would consider hosting a house where he and two other DD young men would live semi-independent lives. Silas is highly functional. He takes the bus by himself, he has a part-time job at the YMCA and is generally pretty self-reliant. He just needs an occasional “guiding hand” in certain areas. After a lot of thought, discussion and prayer, Jody and I agreed to host and moved into a house in uptown Gig Harbor.

For now, Silas is the only resident. As soon as we find two other residents who fit in well and want to be here with us, our little “family” will grow and we will do life together. Silas moved in part-time with us in February and full-time in March. 

Silas has taught us much in the short time we’ve lived together. Here are three things that I’ve learned from Silas.

Singing is really good for you. Silas does nothing halfway. He either could not care less about something or, if he does like something, he’s all in. This is especially true of singing. When Silas sings, he gives it his all and he can often be heard downstairs (our living area is upstairs and the residents living area is downstairs) singing at the top of his lungs. He’s no Pavarotti but that doesn’t stop him; he sings as if he were. My wife recently told him how much she enjoys hearing him sing and that it makes her happy. Silas smiled and said “It makes me happy too!” And that’s the point—singing as if no one is around does make you happy. I think we should all do like Silas and sing out loud more often.

Laughter is good medicine. Silas loves old sitcoms like “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Golden Girls.” He watches them on YouTube on his laptop and you know when because you can hear him laughing. Like his singing, when Silas laughs, he laughs wholeheartedly. And his laughing is infectious. Jody and I have often found ourselves giggling simply listening to him laugh. 

Don’t just be a spectator, participate. Silas doesn’t just laugh at the sitcoms he watches; he interacts with the characters. It is not unusual to hear him yelling at the computer screen something like, “I can’t believe that you did that! That would be sooooo embarrassing!” At first, I thought it odd; after all, the characters in the shows he’s watching can’t hear him or answer back, how silly to act as if they could. It occurred to me, however, that I do exactly the same thing when I’m watching football. Russell Wilson may not be able to hear me but that doesn’t keep me from yelling at him to scramble or hurry up and throw the ball, and that makes the game much more fun to watch. I suspect Silas enjoys the shows he watches all the more because he “participates” instead of just watching them.

I am certain that future columns will cover some of the other lessons Silas is teaching me, but for now I’m realizing that our “responsible adult” way of handling life might just benefit from becoming a little more like Silas. It isn’t easy, but I’m learning to be open to what Silas can teach me and I think I’m going to be a little richer for it.

Rob Vajko lives in Gig Harbor.