I was contacted by a friend several days ago who asked me to speak to her book club about Hopey's heart. Her group was just completing the book, "When Crickets Cry" by Charles Martin, which is about a little girl in need of a heart transplant. It was decided my real-life experience in dealing with a heart patient might prove to be interesting for the group. Never one to turn down an invitation to speak about God's wonderful gift called Hopey, I immediately said "yes" and decided to read the book in order to gain the perspective of my audience. As it turned out, God's additional purpose for having me speak to that awesome group of women was because He knew I would devour every page of the fiction tale about a character struggling to conceal a hidden past that hauntingly continues to rear its ugly head. In the end, the star of the book is forced to confront his past which brings great hope to a community and new life to one little girl, Annie. In short, the book teaches a lesson in humility: Ultimately, God is God, and we are not.
To get a glimpse into my love affair for sweet Hopey, a person really has to see that ringlet curled bundle of joy in action. Since the women I would be speaking to have never seen or even heard of Hopey, I decided to bring her along. Lydia brought her guitar to help me kick off the evening, and dressed in a yellow dress topped with a big orange bow, Hopey walked, hand in mine, in tow. After a short introduction, Lydia began playing a Hopey favorite: "This Little Light of Mine".
If you know an individual who has Down Syndrome, you are aware they are the most honest individuals you will ever meet at every stage of life. Hence, they do not put on airs for any group of people. Ever. If they are in a good mood, you know it.....but if they are in a grumpy mood, they don't hide that either. More importantly, moods can (and often do) change quickly. Hopey has an uncanny sense of knowing when a group of people are open to her versus when a group is not comfortable with her disability. Last evening, thankfully, the book club was eager to get to know my little heart patient, and she sensed it immediately.
As soon as the music began, Hopey smiled, danced, tried her best to sing, and was friendly with most everyone. She even reached out to give a couple of hugs. To say she was a total "hit" would be an understatement. Hopey achieved my goal for her with flying colors: she showed the group that she is a real little girl....and that is a HUGE step in breaking down invisible barriers that divide the "typical world" from the "disabled world".
As you know, for many years the disabled were hidden away in institutions or left at home with sitters where they would be kept safe from stares, rude comments, and danger. An untintentional consequence of those actions was the general public, as a result, lacked the opportunity to relate to them during those years. Reminded of the old adage: "Out of sight, Out of mind",unfortunately, because the disabled were "out of sight" for so long, when the wave turned and parents of the disabled began bringing their children out in public again, a painful learning curve was set in motion that has taken 40 years to establish. It remains a work in progress, but as a nation, we are on the right track.
Parents with disabled children in my generation continue to tear down barriers with the help of "Special Olympics" @ http://www.specialolympics.org/ , founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver...."Best Buddies" @ http://www.bestbuddies.org/ , founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989....and the inclusive classrooms in our public schools. All of these serve to engage the community at large by purposefully forging relationships between the so-called "typical" and "disabled". Change takes time, just ask Joshua of old who didn't give up after circling the walled city of Jericho six times with no result. Pretty soon, it is my hope, we will live in a society without walls....a society that totally misses whether a person is black or white, has two legs or only one, and/or has an IQ of 70 or 120. In reality, each human life represents one uniquely and perfectly created by the Almighty who does not make mistakes. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has a plan and purpose for us all.
So my night with the book club ended well. Before leaving, one even told me she plans to make more of an effort to speak to the disabled....she admitted she sometimes hasn't known what to say or how she will be received. I loved her honesty. Parents of disabled children already know the "typical world" is uncomfortable; afterall, prior to having our "special ones" we were all part of the "typical world" too.
Chappy retrieved Hopey from the book club after the second verse of "This Little Light of Mine" and took her home so I could speak to the group. When I returned, she was already tucked into bed and fast asleep. As I looked upon her chest, rising and falling with each beat of a broken heart, I had to shake my head in wonder at how God continues to use such a fragile little girl to break down walls of misconception that were built with the best of intentions.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people: "Shout, for the Lord has given you the city." So the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat. (from Joshua 6:16 and 20)
If you would like to break down the walls today by doing something tangible, please click on the following link that will lead you to the story of a little girl with Down Syndrome. A gift of only $10.00 or $20.00 could mean the difference of life and death for this little one; and the only thing separating Robyn from a forever family is money you and I might spend on a lunch for food she is literally starving for. A college student, Chelsea Pearce, who is "college poor", has taken on the challenge of raising adoption funds for Robyn. Her love for the "least of these" was spurred by her on-going relationship with Hope and Charlie. Here is her link:
Next blog post: Hope AND Charlie begin a new preschool year TOGETHER!!! (This should be interesting).