Like so many across the country, in a few weeks my family and I will sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner to share in the joy of our family and our thanks.

I often talk about my family. To me, family is so very important.  My wife and I just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, and our four children are now adults. One daughter works for FEMA on the front lines of disaster assistance; one son works at a startup technology company; our youngest daughter is a junior in college, and our oldest son Evan, who is autistic, recently started his first job upon graduating Marshall University last May. As I will do again this Thanksgiving, I always look around and realize how fast children grow up into adults, meaning that I too am aging, having recently celebrated my 63rd birthday.

I come from a family where service to community was not only expected, it was a characteristic of who we were as a family. I am proud that my family of six continues that tradition of helping others.

I get often asked why I work at the Autism Society. Certainly part of the reason is service to others, but just as important to me is that I strongly believe the Autism Society does so much good throughout our nation. We are helping families and individuals with autism advance in their own way to achieve the highest quality of life possible. For many families, including our family and my son, sometimes seeking that goal of achievement might have its challenges. But those challenges can be overcome.  It might be a young child saying I love you to his or her mom or dad for the first time, or it might be a young adult starting his first job, as happened two weeks ago for my son. It might be a young child deciding what to wear to school on his own, even when nothing matched. It might mean a young woman with autism advocating to her local congressman. It might be a night with sleep, or it might just be a night spent holding a young child fearful of something, knowing that hug will help that child fear no more. It might also mean my son telling me to relax, or a daughter saying all will be ok.

No two people are alike and I have yet to meet the perfect, and nothing-wrong person. We each have unique difference. For me, I have a heart issue, and as I age my hearing gets worse. I once wondered what life would be like if we were all the same, and I realized that one of the greatest thanks I have is that we are all different, and by accepting and valuing those differences we are better and more compassionate people.

That is what I like to celebrate on Thanksgiving.