Practicing Change

At GiGi’s Playhouse, each month of 2023 has a particular theme. In February, the theme (not surprisingly) was “Love.” For the month of March, the theme has been “Change.”  Change comes in many forms, and it means different things to different people. But one thing that most people can agree upon is that “change” is frequently difficult.

We have all been influenced and molded by various experiences we have had in our lives, and those thoughts and patterns of behavior tend to become ingrained. We fall back on expressions like, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” or “My grandpa always said,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We are often comfortable with the status quo, and changing the way we think or act requires conscious effort.

I remember a long time ago having a conversation with a good friend regarding gratitude. We remarked that the world would be a better place if more people had an “attitude of gratitude.” We pondered the point for a while, and then he said something that I have never forgotten. He said that, from his perspective, being grateful doesn’t come naturally to most people. He believed that, in order to become more grateful, one must actually “practice gratitude.”

He likened “practicing gratitude” to a golf swing. People who are really good at golf got that way because they practiced. They practiced A LOT! In fact, they practiced until the swing they were working to establish actually became part of their muscle memory. They practiced so much that they no longer had to think about it because their muscles memorized the proper mechanics, and what was once a struggle had now become natural to them.

My friend continued on, arguing that you could apply the same principle to becoming more grateful. You make a conscious effort to practice gratitude every day. You look at the world and find something, no matter how small it is, to be grateful for. “Someone is ALWAYS worse off than you,” he said, “so that shouldn’t be too difficult.” Do that every day, over and over again, and soon being grateful will become a habit. Just like the golf swing, muscle memory kicks in, and being grateful has now become natural to you.

I think we should practice the same mindset regarding “change.” Consider our potential for changing the way we see individuals with Down syndrome. If we make a conscious decision to change for the better, and we regularly practice new thoughts and behaviors, pretty soon we might all look at individuals with disabilities in a whole new light. If we decide to forego stereotypes; if we decide to suspend judgment; if we decide to incorporate inclusion into our actions; if we decide to see the person instead of the diagnosis; if we decide to think for ourselves and forget about what we thought we knew, then we can change… one mind at a time, one person at a time… for the better.

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