My son, Joe, is 24 years old and has Down Syndrome. He is a joy to our family and has a personality that wins him the title of mayor wherever he goes! Well, in most places anyway. About six months ago he lost his job in a super market because he was expected to fit the corporate mold. He was expected to not hug super nice people, and to not tell it like it is, yet be honest. I won't bore you with all the details, but it was a terrible experience because you just can't put people like Joe in a box!
Fast forward to 3 weeks ago. That was the day Joe began to play basketball for Special Olympics. There's nothing he loves more than basketball, and in fact he was involved in Special Olympics basketball 10 years ago when we were still living on the east coast. Then life got in the way with moving across the country and settling in, and before I knew it all this time passed without Joe's involvement. But in my quest, after his devastating job experience, of making him feel important and fitting in, I signed him up again. And what I witnessed that first day, and every practice since, brought me to tears...in a good way. You see, there was 1 head coach, several assistant coaches and several "buddies", all maybe about 22 years old and younger. Then there were several participants, all with various special needs. And everyone was and is kind and considerate of each other and, even more importantly, ACCEPTING of one another! Whether a timid girl was oh so slowly dribbling, or one of the guys was trying to show off, or another one of the guys was loudly yelling something insignificant to the game, they all took it in their stride, and they all allowed the other to BE! And by "all" I mean, the coaches, the buddies and the participants. It is a sight to behold...and very confronting!
What I took away from this is how important it is not to put people in a box, and to not only accept, but to celebrate individuality! We are all awesomely and wonderfully made, and what makes me tick is not going to be what makes you tick. And just like the Special Olympics basketball team, we can be accepting and allow others to be. This includes clients, coworkers, colleagues, friends, and, most important of all, FAMILY!!