When Passing Someone With Special Needs
The Down syndrome community has introduced, within me, a new awareness and love towards all disabilities. At their birth, I was stricken with an overpowering love for the uniqueness of my daughters. I have since then gained a sweet spot for individuals with special needs as a whole.
As if motion censored, my heart had sat dormant. It was wired to shine, just needing the necessary presence to trigger it into action. I was that person who did a quick ‘smile and walk faster’, to for example, someone with cerebral palsy. It was a balance of showing kindness and hiding my awkward feelings inside.
Once prompted, the space of indifference surrounding me was filled with compassion and admiration. With joining my children’s community, and fresh eyes, I am continuing to witness the power of love in new forms and dimensions.
Until you gain exposure and connection, it proves difficult to identify and empathize with the physical hardships, economic status, or emotional state of another. That was me. Innocent heart, zero connection, minimal background. In the case of special needs, connecting allows you to see the depth of a person, past their surface level characteristics or behaviors. I now view that depth as a sea; the surface conceals how magical and brimming with life it is just below. Now empathy is there, but a side-car to my desire to know the person. With this desire, I may need a refresher course on personal space and not being creepy.
Love will not solely give, but also erase; namely fear, hesitation, and discomfort. Those ‘walk-bys’ are notability different. Perhaps I’m now overly excited to connect?! I feel so drawn to make eye contact and warm conversation. I am secretly hoping we have some reason to cross paths. I try to remember boundaries are a thing and, if I follow this family too close down the supermarket aisles, it will freak them out. I should rephrase: Love erased my discomfort, but I am possibly weirding out others at this point with my forwardness. Now, who wants to be friends? 🙋🏼♀️
Without connecting, we are only coexisting. At best, we are acknowledging the person of difference by placing them, isolated, on a pedestal, as a represention of their minority group. Tolerance or acknowledgment do not substitute for acceptance. Acceptance does not change hearts. Hearts are only reached by a bridge constructed of relationships.
Relationships and openness lead to better understanding those who contrast from ourselves, and consequently, our personal growth. Let us be your first, or one of many, connections to those with Trisomy 21! See our girls, see our joy, and share these moments with our family. The lessons are sweet. The journey is beautiful. Join.
Disability is a common ground between us all, although, for the ‘typical’ person, it is our hearts that especially need caring for. We are dependent upon others to trigger the opening of our eyes. By extending and connecting to those with disabilities, we find we are all more ‘able’, when together. We are pulled closer, walking slower on the ‘passbys’ and hoping someone drops something, so I can jump in to help, and become your new best friend. Too soon?
A fun video I stumbled upon:
(This video was enlightening and encouraging to the boundless power and beauty of love.)