Some synonyms for the word gala include: celebratory, joyous, festive, merry, entertaining and (my favorite) spectacular. Well, this was our first Gala ever; GiGi’s or otherwise. It most certainly was as magical as it’s synonyms. Can I just say. If you get a chance to leave the kids (well tended to of course) get fancied up with your babe and celebrate a cause…DO IT. Very rarely do Bobby and I get to see each other looking and feeling our best. Very rarely do we get to focus all of our attention toward the love we have for one another and the greater good in this world. Very rarely do we get to feast on us, unprecedented kindness, and the uniqueness of our child, all in the same night. I’d say the closest we’ve ever come to the good feels of a gala is a wedding …and although there is an elation of two people uniting , I still see a hint of cynicism from my own cerebrum. It whispers “Just you wait naively blissful couple, you have no idea!”
At a gala that commends a cause such as Down syndrome, you find yourself whispering “I want to do more.” I know this because Bobby and I both said that exact thing as the spectacular celebration swirled around us.
It was a red carpet affair. Our picture was taken, we signed up for auctions that made us feel wealthy for a second, and the entrance hall was lined with stunning black and whites of the people I’ve met over the last year at GiGi’s Playhouse. I was radiant when I saw the one of my own sons. I didn’t want to leave it I was so proud. I could barely believe everyone was there to support people like my Judah. When Judah was born, I wish somebody could’ve snapped me to this moment, if even for a second. I just know I would not have been so scared.
As we made our way to our table, I picked up a program and saw my own story looking back at me. I was touched and I was weepy for what would be the first time of many that evening. They were different kind of tears though; different from the ones that fell on my small, pink newborn. These ones were filled with smiles, hope, and happiness. My boy gave me purpose and a voice. He has changed every dusty corner of my soul into something shiny. I could tell I wasn’t the only one in the room feeling that way too.
We shared a table with a young lady who has Down syndrome and she was there with her sister , who also helps manage her social life. It was a treat to see her partaking in all of the festivities and I adored how she appropriately giggled at the MC’s jokes. There was a family there who had lost their two month old Isabella around Christmas time. I cannot even begin to explain the admiration I have for this couple. They still showed up for their daughter…what guts, what unconditional love, what absolute selflessness. I never knew such graciousness existed on this planet. Another couple who are friends from high school were there. They weren’t there to support any one individual but rather the cause. That’s their thing they told me. They attend events related to causes. They love to go out together and they love to have a good time by giving back. I mean the things you find out about people. I found myself wanting to adopt their favorite pastime. On a side note: this same couple won the trip to Disney! No…I’m not saying dedicate your time and money and you will reap huge rewards but I am saying that the whole karma paradox is not lost on me here.
Some other shining moments? Listening to GiGi and Julie speak was incredible. Both of these young ladies have Down syndrome and both were able to conquer the monster that still hides in my closet; public speaking. My neck gets splotchy, my cheeks get hot, I feel faint, and I shake like a wet pup! It’s humiliating and probably cost me a successful career on Broadway. Seriously though, these ladies did something I could never do, because, well, we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. We are more alike than different. I walked away inspired and hopeful that Judah will someday find his “thing.”
Finally, there was Nancy’s speech. For those of you who don’t know, Nancy Gianni is the founder of GiGi’s. She has seen her dream of playhouses spreading over the world become a reality. Here’s the clincher though. When she speaks about this cause, she still gets emotional and choked up. She has probably made thousands of speeches, yet the lump still remains in her throat. A memorable point for me was how she explained that her GiGi has Down syndrome and that it will never go away. Her daughter has to live with all of the good and challenges that come with that. How poignant. I don’t live with Down syndrome. I will not face possible rejection, I will not need extended time on my tests, I will not be sad for things that may be out of reach for me. My son will though and he needs us. He needs places like GiGi’s. He needs to feel accepted and he needs help accepting things not meant for him. Talk about parental responsibility. This pep talk made me ready. Today is easy. Tomorrow may not be.
That brings me to the next part of the speech that hit me hard. Nancy showed a heart wrenching photo. It was a spray painted “R” word on a house of a person with Down syndrome. She equated it with an analogy of a bus. It went something like: “sometimes you are driving the bus, sometimes you’re on the bus and sometimes you’re hit by the bus.” Our family hasn’t been hit by the bus yet. No one has ever been anything less than enchanted by our child. And we’re lucky in some ways. We are driving that bus and navigating it to all the safe places where our son is loved and adored. But it made us think. What will we do? What will happen when we are just passengers unable to control the wheel? And worst, what will we do when we get hit head on by that bus and want to destroy whoever hurt our child? Well, that’s when we will do more. That is when we will step up and really make a difference. You see, while we may want to strangle the person uttering unkindness, we will strangle ignorance. We will squash judgement, we will destroy prejudice and we will preach acceptance through education. We will ride that bus with our son for as long as he wants us and the goods of the Gala were just the flare we needed to ignite us inside. ~ Beth Craver
Thank you Beth for sharing another beautiful blog post with us all. Reading this has us excited for the 2017 ‘i have a Voice’ Gala.