Saturday, February 13, 2016
I feel the heat of a social media frenzy.
It makes me cringe.
I feel embarrassed.
I completely sympathize with Cam Newton.
An email I wrote in a passionate moment to a school that denied my son entrance has been revealed.
My 20 year old daughter, sitting in her apartment in college was so disgusted
she wanted to let it loose.
Like some message in a bottle, she shouted into Facebook, and shared her conflict and disappointment at the relative hypocrisy of a school that holds the motto, "Men For Others".
It seems that one of our sons is a Man.
Our other son, with Down Syndrome, is the Other.
I actually wasn't surprised by their decision.
I knew it would be a tough sell.
Before Patrick, my son with Down Syndrome, I fully admit that I would be the one not letting people in...not believing in the capability, the equality, the urgency of learning together.
I don't resent Jesuit.
I don't want to hate on them.
Or shame them.
Or even torment them.
Trust me, the heat they must be feeling from this social media blitz is more than they are used to...
and must feel uncomfortable.
Mary Kate's post on Facebook was not something I encouraged.
In fact, I actively discouraged it.
I wanted the whole process to stay private.
Like I was negotiating with a terrorist, I was afraid the pin might drop.
Jesuit had all the aces.
I was dependent upon them for even the slightest, tiniest welcome.
I knew it was a game I would most likely lose.
And it didn't feel good.
But Mary Kate was adamant.
She wanted to do this...
and when it happened, I just let it be.
Here is her post:
"This past week my brother was denied admission to Jesuit High School Sacramento. The high school my older brother attended. The high school my family has endorsed and supported over many years. Patrick was not denied because he was unqualified, but rather because he has Down Syndrome.
It's difficult to believe in a religion that is based on "treating everyone the way we would want to be treated" and that "we are all made in the likeness and image of God" when situations like this occur. But I refuse to be sad or mad about this. The only people who should feel sad are the administrators, teachers and students of Jesuit High School who will never get the opportunity and privilege of knowing Patrick, not only as a student but as a friend.
My mother said it best in this beautifully crafted statement: "You can know that by not allowing Patrick into your school, you are continuing to marginalize a segment of the population that is already the most marginalized group in our country. You are perpetuating the myth that disability is such a hurdle that you cannot get over it. You are even contributing to the abortion rate -- because any student that knows Patrick knows that his is a life worth living and would not be able to condone abortion.
I will continue to pray for all of the people, like you, in leadership positions to open their hearts and minds to students like Patrick. The educational research is irrefutable. The academic scores go up for all students -- the social emotional health of all students improves. It is worth every effort. And yet, we continue to be stymied.
Fear? the perception of the student being a burden? The pervasive prejudice that is allowed to continue in our country toward people with intellectual disabilities?
In this Year of Mercy , all we can do is redouble our efforts and continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the least of our brothers. You can be assured that I will be doing just that."
Siblings are virtually never heard.
When do they get to say their peace?
When do they get to acknowledge that they live in a world that sees disability as brokenness
when their reality is the opposite experience.
Mary Kate sees Patrick as an equal...deserving of opportunities.
She understands that he will need support,
but she doesn't think the two things are mutually exclusive.
Mary Kate posted on Facebook on Friday night.
24 hours later, her post has been shared close to 300 times.
Shared by strangers, friends and family.
Shared by groups that work for inclusion and families that dream of inclusion.
Shared over and over and over again.
When you have a child with a disability, you feel very alone.
You feel the weight of making every decision carefully and intentionally.
You cringe when you ask for an opportunity.
You hold your breath...and expect the no.
Sometimes you are surprised by a quick and kind yes.
But many times you hear the words, "we just can't do it".
You sigh and wonder what it's like to have all that power.
You wish they could see your child as just a child.
You connect with others...but feel alone.
Watching this post get shared over and over again felt like the craziest,
most universe-binding hug I've ever had.
Strangers stood side by side with family members...all sharing the story...
and leaving the question hanging...
Why say no?
It's been the kids who have been amazing.
Watching both of my older kids advocate out loud has been breath-taking...
but their friends...
their articulate disappointment...
their stunning shock...
their "I stand with you" solidarity,
that is the inspiration as well.
They get it.
They always do.
Us adults need to just get out of the way sometimes.
I don't know how the story is going to end.
I don't need to.
For this minute, on this day, I feel such tremendous community and connection and care that I can barely soak it all in.
Our world is changing.
Tiny baby step by tiny baby step questions are getting asked...
by the kids!
Left in their hands I feel so much hope.
When Patrick's classmates are old enough to be principals, they won't say no.
That idea alone: a parent asking and hoping...and a classmate of Patrick's remembering his or her own experience of what inclusion is really like...and saying yes....
that right there is the good stuff.
Mary Kate, you did it differently than me...but you sure did a beautiful thing.
I know that grace.
I know that beauty.
Let's keep doing it.