Well, the immediate and obvious answer is that we want to enrich the lives of our children and friends who have Down syndrome and their families.
The bigger answer is we want to add to the community of Annapolis by helping our families. If our children, through the therapeutic, academic and specialty programs, learn to better negotiate and reside in the world around them, then we have added to the community a joy unknown to many who do not have the pleasure of knowing individuals who have Down syndrome. Therein lies the secret answer to the question “why”.
Why? Because we have this wonderful secret to share.
If you look at the numbers, depression is rampant among women my age. When I hear these numbers, I think to myself “get thee a friend who has Down syndrome.” You will laugh and smile and look at things differently, and the time you spend with your friend will be restorative.
When I hear of students being bullied or having a difficult time with adolescence, I think to myself,” get thee a friend who has Down Syndrome.” You will have a friend who will listen to you for hours without judgment or instruction on what to do, love you no matter what you look like, identify as or aspire to be. You have a friend who will ALWAYS show up and spend hours getting ready just to see you. You will not help but to look at your life through their eyes and see that the coolest clothes, car or friends perhaps isn’t what you think they are. And, your friend will just have a way to make you smile like none else can.
When I see lonely older people, I think to myself, “get thee a friend who has Down Syndrome.” They will listen to your stories and enjoy your pace. They are always hurrying up for everyone and your pace will be perfect. Your one on one, non electronic communication will be reciprocated and your patience appreciated. You have so much to give and such a willing student to share your history!
When I see the busy young adult, I think to myself, “get thee a friend who has Down Syndrome.” They will show you what love looks like. They will show you that relationship is the most important part of life and kindness is the most important part of relationship. They will surprise you with small bits of wisdom that you are too ambitious to see. They will help you lose some of your self consciousness and you will learn how much fun dancing in public can be!
When I hear of the very high rate of abortion when tests come back with the likelihood of Down syndrome, I think to myself, “If they only knew.” If they only knew how much more I have I pushed myself to be a better person because of my daughter. I think of all the incredible people who have come into our lives because of my daughter (hugs from Taylor Swift, a speech with Joe Flacco and all the amazing non famous heroes we have met). I think of how her siblings have developed into such fine humans in concert with their sister, and what an easy baby and teenager (whew) she was. It’s not all a piece of cake, but it has been so deeply meaningful. Sometimes I allow my thoughts to wander and, like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, I wonder what life might have been like without Olivia being born. Except for the paperwork in IEP’s etc., I see no advantage, in fact, like George, I see a more selfish and narcissistic life. I quickly and gratfully get back to my improved reality. If they only knew.
So, there is the secret. Our secret for a better world. Come into GiGI’s Playhouse, volunteer or just hang out and make a friend… and get your share.
Board of Directors, Program Coordinator.