Lessons From My 13-Year-Old Sister


“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.”
Barbara Alpert

There’s a little girl I would like to tell you about named Sarah.

When she was born into this world when I was nine, I had no idea that she would change my life and make it a blessing. And even though she is only 13 years of age, but she has a wisdom beyond her years and I have learned more from her than I have learned from anyone else.

She taught me to love people the best you can, even when you don’t understand what they’re going through. When I was going through depression, all I could do was close my curtains shut and sleep, afraid and tired. Even though she was only nine at the time, and even though she couldn’t understand what her big sister was going through, she loved me the best way she knew how. One time while I was depressed in bed, she brought me my favourite fair trade chocolate and rented my favourite movie at the time (Lords of Dogtown) and put them by the bottom of my bed without saying a word.

She taught me kindness. Sarah always does an act of kindness to me everyday, whether it would be making me my favourite coffee, baking a cupcake for me, or listening to what’s on my heart with undivided attention. She gives with asking, and yet her heart is full. Her generous spirit and servant heart is probably why we love to spoil her, but most of all, it inspired me to have the same to others.

She taught me to be silly like a child. Even though she has had to grow up so fast because of this broken family we are in, she still chooses to see the joy in life. She does random dances in the kitchen, she climbs up the roof of the house with no shoes on despite my worry, and one time she stood on top of her dresser and told me she was Jesus the first time she wore a nightgown. And even though I get annoyed that she takes Snapchats of me sleeping with drool running down my face, at the end of the day, she has liberated me to become more silly and free-spirited just like her.

She taught me to appreciate everyone in your life. From making lolly bags for her classmates on the last day, to buying a gift for her friend in hospital, to asking how my mums day is when she comes home from work, Sarah truly knows what it means to be a good friend, daughter and sister. In my treasure box are countless letters and pictures Sarah drew for me, some of which have even made me cry. Recently, when I was about to embark on my first solo travel adventure, she wrote me a letter to read at the airport. At the time, I was feeling so nervous and afraid to board the plane, and I was shivering. Then I read her letter. In her 13 year old handwriting, she told me that she was proud of me, that she knows everything was going to be okay, and that she loved me. It calmed my nerves completely and somehow I knew that she was right. And she was.

She taught me to see the best in everybody. More times that I can count, she has been let down by friends and family. And yet, I know that if any of them were to come to her for help, she would. Sometimes I want to say to her, “But this person hurt you!” But before I say it, I know she would reply back to me, “I know. But he’s family,” or “She’s my friend.” Sarah taught me that people will make mistakes, mess up and hurt you, but that we have the power and choice to forgive, help, and essentially love one another – and that is what unites us together in the end.

She taught me joy. As people age, the excitement for life dulls down, but I love that Sarah keeps the joy – and it’s infectious. She tells me, “Goodmorning,” with a smile on her face and when she laughs, you can bet it’s loud and fills the entire house. When she gets a gift she loves, she’ll bowl you over with a hug. And trust me when I say that when she’s excited for something, like her favourite anime movie, a K-pop band or a sunset, she’ll let the whole world know.

She taught me not to compete for boys, but to compete with boys. I can’t say how proud I am as a feminist when Sarah tells me that she wants to give boys a run for their money. She’ll try to beat boys at basketball, isn’t afraid to play computer games dominated by the opposite sex and tell boys to go away if they annoy her. With so many girls I know chasing after boys or backing down around them, it’s inspiring for me to see a young girl like Sarah act, dress and talk like them, not to impress them, but simply because that’s who she is – a girl not made of sugar and spice, but of determination, endurance, confidence and strength.

She taught me that things are just things. Sometimes, we place too much importance on what we have and on getting more. And while she appreciates all you do for her, Sarah taught me that at the end of the day, experiences are more important. Of all the things she asks of me, she asks me if she can go out the most. She wants to hang out with friends at the mall, watch a movie and get dinner with me, or have a sleepover with her friends. She doesn’t worry about make-up, clothes or a phone, and once when I told her to take care of her things properly, she told me matter-of-factly, “But things are just things.”

She taught me not to take life so seriously. Often I would find myself telling her off, and I would see the look on her face of horror. Then it hits me – sometimes, I just need to chill out. Sarah taught me that life doesn’t have to be a whole list of do’s and don’ts. Life just doesn’t need to be so complicated. When I reminisce on all the fun we have together like snuggling up in bed watching movies with junk food, going on Google translator to make the lady say funny things, building forts, baking and having sister dates which always ended up at KiwiYo, I realize that life doesn’t need to be so serious all the time. She taught me to let some things go, relax and just enjoy life.

She taught me to be a good role model. Without her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m very aware that she’s watching my life (when I go out, she asks me like a mother, “Where are you going? Who are you with? When will you be home?”) and I have to set a good example for her. In a way, she has straightened me out. I watch my language, always keep my promises, pursue my dreams and always try to be honest and kind to everyone, all in the hopes that she will learn and do the same. I have to say though, that even though she is all those things and more, I don’t know if it was my doing. All I can say is that I’m just one very proud big sister.

This girl is the most important person in my life, and I would give my life for her. She is the most unselfish and kindest person I know, and I’m so very proud of the woman she’s become. Because of her, I can say my life is a real blessing and I’m honored that God chose to give me her as a sister. I think He gave me her as a teaching, as a beacon of joy and as an anchor – but most of all, I think He gave me her so that she could one day save my life. And she did, in many more ways than one.


Image via Physeeq