My Name is Sarah

MY NAME IS SARAH. I am a quilt designer and the sewcial director of Sarah's Sewcial Lounge. I also have a business called Down Right Charming. I sell my quilts mostly on etsy and I make pillowcases to donate to patients in the hospital in memory of my friend Kristen Kirton. I am a young adult living with Down syndrome. I hope you enjoy reading about my life journey.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who's the Champs?

When Cleveland has a championship team, we shout from the rooftops. Let's face it, Cleveland sports teams are not known for winning. Somehow in the fall of 1995, the Cleveland Indians did manage to win...something. Does anyone remember what? The teachers got all decked out in their Indians apparel and even the school photographer brought a banner to hang on the wall. In the official class picture, Mrs. Anselmo is holding the front page of the newspaper. It reads: We're Champs!

Yet, by October 18th of that year, the real champs were standing in this picture. That's right, the Kindergarten class at Southlyn Elementary. From the first day, this group of students embraced Sarah as one of them. I'm sure at age five, they didn't have a conversation with each other and say, "She seems OK, let's include her." It just came naturally to them. They sat on the carpet together, they sang songs together, they climbed on the playground together, they learned the Letter People together. They went on field trips together, they attended the school fair together. Togetherness is what it's all about in kindergarten.

This group of kiddos did something else. Together, they made get well cards for their friend Sarah, each and every time she was in the hospital. In their sweet little innocent voices they called the house to see how she was doing if she missed more than a few days. They helped her off the bus when she was weak. But they never pitied her. I watched them closely. They never babied her. She was just one of them. A smiley kindergarten student.

And that made all the difference. In that first year of school, little tiny kindergartners, were showing me how to live life. From a child's eye. No prejudice, no taunting, no false expectation, no reason to question, no reason to belittle, no reason to hold a grudge. And the more I observed, the more angry I became.
Why Angry? Because I was denied this opportunity as a child. Growing up in the late 60's, early 70's it was still the norm to segregate any child that didn't fit, that looked different, or could not conform based on the simple definitions set by an I. Q. test. I'm not even sure where they were, I just know that I was not allowed to interact. Therefore, as an adult I held onto stereotypes, misguided information and I had not developed the richness of what Sarah's classmates were learning at a young age.
I began to understand why there was this buzz about inclusion. I started to philosophically understand why the parents before me had fought so hard. Why they had pushed and pushed for Sarah to have the right to be on that bus her first day of kindergarten. I also started to see why I needed to let go and let her be like her classmates. I needed to step aside and allow the cocoon to open, to not prevent her delicate wings from forming. So one day she could develop into a beautiful butterfly.
Letting go. Such a hard thing for any mother to do. Even harder for a mom who has held her child's tiny, delicate hand following open heart surgery. Held it while they struggled to breathe. Squeezed it tightly in the back seat of a speeding ambulance. So hard when you know your child will have to work harder for every accomplishment, even the small ones. Yet, that is all the more reason why we have to open our grip, loosen the fingers, and release...


Melissa said...

AWE, I'm teary eyed!! Thanks Joyce for sharing this...I love that picture of Sarah:)

Junior said...

A beautiful post, and such sweet pics of Sarah.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post Joyce. You really are an inspiration to me!!

stephanie said...

Joyce, your the best mom ever. You have helped Sarah to become the most beautiful butterfly. I hope I can be as strong as you are, when I need to let go (a little) of Emmie, so she to can discover her wings.

Heather said...

Beautiful post Joyce.Just beautiful.And look at the beautiful child that you have allowed to fly and test her wings.I'd say she is soaring!!

Perplexing Situation said...

Indeed, she is soaring. You are an inspiration to me as well. Thank you for your encouraging words and reminders to live life to its absolute fullest potential.