Sunday, February 2, 2014
"Heroes don't look like they used to, they look like you."
One of my heroes is Sue Buckley.
You probably have never heard of her.
She's an older woman, slight in stature, well-spoken and honest.
Gut level, clear and sometimes brazen.
She's also British.
So whatever she has to say, no matter how hard to swallow, feels like it has a spoonful of sugar to help it go down.
Her intelligence, her drive and her careful research
have reformed education for people with disabilities across the UK.
Yes, folks, that entire country places their students with disabilities in regular ordinary classrooms first.
Support is given. Intention and careful planning go into it.
If I had to distill Sue's message into a soundbite it would be this:
People with disabilities deserve an ordinary life.
Life with their family.
Life with a significant other when they grow up.
Life with a good education so that you can have the means to have an ordinary job.
A full, ordinary life.
That's all she wants --
and yet, it's revolutionary in so many places.
This week-end I had the privilege of hearing Sue speak
and share her vision.
She was stern.
Indicting all parents who let their child with special needs have poor behavior.
She was funny.
Sharing stories and attempts at searching for this ordinary life for her own daughter.
She was incredibly articulate.
Reminding all of us of how important it is to strive for inclusion and why it matters.
She was bold.
Creating educational models that can be replicated easily and aren't costly, basing it all in research.
There, among the crowds of people yesterday, were new parents. They were holding their tiny babies with Down Syndrome and being washed in acceptance.
It must have felt like a baptism for them.
There were educators who have dedicated their entire lives to the vision of full inclusion...renewing their vows, so to speak, redoubling their efforts, reaffirming just how important this work is.
There were parents who hold close Sue's vision too.
Clinging to her every word.
Crying silent tears in agreement and urgency.
There is no time to waste.
And then there was my crew...
mothers of children with Down Syndrome who know in their souls and hearts that the efforts to fully include children with disabilities in Catholic schools is a sacred mission divinely guided.
We were from mostly California...
Napa, Davis, Manhattan Beach, Sacramento, Roseville, Costa Mesa.
But we had friends from Arizona.
And a mom from St. Louis, Missouri who out of desperation formed a Facebook group a year ago that has grown and ricocheted across all sorts of places and created a tidal wave of energy with it.
It was a shout into the void.
And people answered.
She jumped on a plane to be with her tribe and it was right.
For both nights that we ate out as a group,
a child with Down Syndrome that was unknown to us came up to our group...
two different kids
encouraging us in our mission.
My friend, Michelle, called it a "God-cident".
It was like a sprinkle of fairy dust.
Or the slightest whisper of love.
Or the sparkling rocks that guide your way on a dark path.
Any way you describe it, those children felt heaven-sent.
As I watched Sue,
I thought of these mothers who have no formal program,
who have nobody funding it,
no real guidance -- except each other --
who only have the very same desire that Sue has...
a chance for an ordinary life for their child with Down Syndrome,
learning alongside of his/her siblings,
making Communion and Reconciliation and Confirmation in their faith community,
singing in the Christmas pageant,
playing kickball and basketball
just like anybody else.
On my way down Jamboree Road in Newport Beach, a song came on the radio.
I was all alone when I heard these words:
To be humble, to be kind.
It is the giving of the peace in your mind.
To a stranger, To a friend
To give in such a way that it has no end.
We are Love.
We are One.
We are how we treat each other when the day is done.
We are Peace.
We are War.
We are how we treat each other and Nothing More.
Another whisper...another arrow pointing the way.
How we treat each other and nothing more.
Let us remember the heroes,
humble and kind,
who show us how to treat each other
and nothing more.
For us, those heroes have names:
Patrick, Chris, Gretchen, Thomas, CJ, Raymond, John Michael and Adam.
Mia, Savannah, KC and Roberta.
They want an ordinary life.
They are full of ordinary grace.
It is our job to make it happen.
Let's do it.
Our revolution is under way.