Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Violet Patch

"The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it --
basically because you feel good, very good, when you are
near or with them."  -- Charles Bukowski

For the past few days, I've been visiting a violet patch.

You might not understand.
I've been hanging out with a crowd of people that are rare and beautiful...
often over-looked
or unnoticed
or easily dismissed...
this past week-end they were a significant chunk of the population.

I attended the National Down Syndrome Convention
in Phoenix, Arizona.

"Think of typical people as daisies -- we are common, beautiful and we grow easily.  Think of people with Down Syndrome as violets -- they are rare, beautiful in their gorgeous, velvety way and need more care and attention in order to thrive.  
They are not broken daisies.
They are violets living in a daisy world and our world is so much better for their 
beauty and difference."

That's my way of condensing down Kay Drais's  powerful and moving letter to educators,


In our family, whenever we see someone with Down Syndrome, our code word is violet.
We are excited and eager to connect eyes, catch a glimpse of the person and if we're really lucky have a conversation.

In our town of 60,000 people a genetic disorder that happens 1 in every 691 births 
just isn't present at all. 
Patrick, who is almost 16, has not a single person his age in our town with Down Syndrome.
There should be close to 100 people with Down Syndrome in our town,
but our violet patch is tiny indeed.

So, we cherish the violets...
cheer them on...
and notice their absence.

Our garden is so much better with variety.

I love the happy daisy.
White with a yellow center, I admire it's cheerfulness
and its ability to thrive.

But that doesn't mean I can't pause and enjoy a violet too.

What is lost when we have less diversity?
What is gained?

Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors for a reason.
Not everyone likes vanilla.
Yet, it seems that in our world, we are getting so
sanitized and homogenized,
that our ability to deal with difference is stunted.

And our ability to cherish and honor difference is lost completely.


So, you can imagine the joy and freedom of having a convention celebrating Down Syndrome.
Imagine how the families feel.
The kids.
The teenagers.
The adults with Down Syndrome...who are busy living their lives and having relationships and 
yeah, being adults.

I decided at the last minute to take Patrick and Caroline.
I thought they would like the pools and the hotel...
turns out for Patrick he found his people.

When Tim from Tim's Place Restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico came up onto the stage it was as if Tony Robbins had made an appearance.
Patrick and his friend Jamie (who also happens to have Down Syndrome) would pump their fists and cheer, "Oh Yeah!" after every tidbit of inspiration from Tim.

Tim danced onto the stage to Pharrell Williams song, "Happy" --
and the crowd danced too. :)

Then he told the audience that he had an awesome life...and that he was going to share
six ways to have an awesome life.

I pulled out my phone and started taking notes --
who doesn't want an awesome life?

Here are Tim's gems:

1) Love people -- pretty clear here -- just love the ones your with.all.of.them
2) Work hard -- he told the crowd that he used to spend a lot of time on the computer and watching TV but with the help of his friends he began exercising more and lost 70 pounds.
3) Believe in Yourself -- he always wanted to own a restaurant and his family helped him believe that he could
4) Believe in Others -- with the success of Tim's restaurant, he wanted a way to "pay-it-forward" and so he began a non-profit called Tim's Big Love Foundation where Tim gives help to other inspiring entrepreneurs who have an intellectual disability. His friend, Matt, came up to talk about the bakery he owns and how he got his start from Tim's foundation. Incredible!
5) Be happy -- don't be afraid to shake it (as in dancing!)
6) Be the light -- "The world can be a scary place and some people want to be scared.  Not me." -Tim
Show people the light in a dark world. 

And then he started dancing again...and so did the rest of us.

Here, among a solid chunk of violets and a typical group of daisies, we rocked it.
We danced the night away and got our groove on.


Life is what you make it.
For people with Down Syndrome this message is how they live.

They make it awesome.

They know what matters and all the rest just floats down a lazy river for them.
I wish everyone could hang in a violet patch...
filled with free souls...
love and light.

If you get a chance, grab it.
You just might learn what awesome really is.

No comments:

Post a Comment