What’s Important

There’s a new rock star in the world of golf.  Jordan Spieth is barely 20 and already earning millions of dollars. Jordan’s swing energy and talent are rocking the world of professional golf. He was picked to play on the prestigious President’s Cup. He sank a hole in one during the practice round and was great fun to watch.  Some worry that the fame and fortune may go to his head, like so many others, but this kid is different.  He’s grounded.

Jordan clearly and frequently thanks the gift of his sister, Ellie,  for teaching him what is important in life.  Ellie was born with a disability and attends a school for children with developmental challenges. Jordan knows the strain of the emotional and financial pressures of raising a child with a disability. In the case of the Spieth family, they chose to work together as a team, and became stronger for it.  Jordan’s brother is going to play basketball at Brown University, and Ellie enjoys being on a  soccer field.

Everywhere, commentators describe how grown up, how mature beyond his years Jordan behaves.  Our daughter Greta also has been described this way, too. We believe it was the gift of living with a brother who was born into a world that was not designed for him.  Everyday, our family worked as a team to figure out what was most important.  Often it was her brother Phillip’s needs that had to be met, but we also worked hard   to strive to have fun as a family together.


Many times Greta’s needs were put on the back burner.  But then we strove to make sure she knew that she was the focus of our efforts, too. Greta developed this innate wisdom to know that, as a family we were struggling to find the balance to satisfy everyone’s most important needs.  I think this helped her find professional success. After graduating in architecture from UVA and Yale, where she earned top honors, she now has a plum job helping design the New York headquarters of a famous company.  But she too is very grounded.

It is often true that siblings may resent or be jealous of the time that their brother or sister demands. They may feel embarrassed. But when parents tune into important needs or every member of the family, they can help ease the difficulties. A University of Michigan report found that children of siblings with disabilities usually develop remarkable skills that lead to success.  They are:

  • Patience and kindness
  • Acceptance of differences
  • Compassion and helpfulness
  • Empathy
  • Dependability
  • Loyalty that comes from standing up for a brother or sister

These are qualities that have helped Jordan shine as a young superstar. . Spieth describes how he enjoys being with his sister and sharing her sense of humor. Time spent with her keeps him centered.

“When I’m upset at a tournament or don’t finish it the way I should, it really does put things in perspective,” he said during the Fed Ex Cup playoffs. “Being Ellie’s brother, humbles me everyday,” Jordan said.

I predict his light will shine bright for a long time, because he knows what’s important in life.