"There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more."
This month we celebrate some of the greatest people I've ever known.
The people of the Down Syndrome Community have impacted my life in some incredible ways.
When I first started working with disabled individuals, I was most nervous to meet people with Down Syndrome. Other than brief passings on the streets and Becky from "Glee", I'd never truly come into contact or known of anyone that had Down Syndrome. By the end of the summer of 2014, I would realize just how amazing a population like their's is.
Walking into my job the first day was probably one of the scariest things I've ever had to do. I didn't know what to expect, how my campers would behave, or honestly what they even looked like. Everyone I'd spoken to, had said how much it impacted their lives to work with the disabled, but it wasn't until after my first summer working with children with Down Syndrome that I realized how truly amazing they all are.
The first person to ever walk into my tent was a 21-year-old boy with sandy blonde hair. He introduced himself as Danny and told me that he was captain of the football team at his high school. He opened his backpack, pulled a football out, and began to have a catch with me. He was amazing. I expected him to be kidding about being on the football team, or lying or just playing a trick on me. But as soon as he threw the ball at me for the first time, I realized he was telling the truth. That was the moment I realized how truly extraordinary people like Danny are.
I think that there is a part of everyone that assumes that people with Down Syndrome, Autism, or anything in between, are unable to live a life anything remotely close to ours. The girl responsible for proving to me how untrue this was, was Morgan.
Morgan would sing, she would whine, she would curse, she would dance, she would hug and she would love greater than anyone I'd ever known. Morgan was funny, truly an utterly funny. She had some kind of spunk to her that you can't find among just anyone. Morgan wasn't just a camper she was a phenomenal dancer, a cheerleader, but most importantly a friend. She even had a boyfriend. His name was Sean.
Sean was different than Morgan. He was quiet, observant, he refused to remember anyone's name, so he just called them by movie characters. I was "Fat Amy." Sean had a sense of humor that was basic, a fart noise or someone falling down would earn a chuckle. Morgan could be comically satisfied in other ways. She thought curse words were funny, and she liked when people were bad dancers. In the presence of people like Sean, Morgan and Danny, I was totally and completely comfortable. I felt like I was able to be myself.
I didn't have to figure out how to act, what to wear, and I didn't have to alter my personality in any way, shape, or form.
It was kids like these, kids that had no standards or expectations of you other than to be kind, that showed me just how important it is to look past the things we can not change.
Down Syndrome is not a curse. People with Down Syndrome are no different than you and I. They laugh, cry, play, and love. I've learned through working with the Down Syndrome community, that accepting the things we can not change, makes loving so much easier.