Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness

There are so many ways to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, and my Facebook newsfeed has recently been swamped with how everyone is planning to spread awareness ( I am part of tons of Down syndrome FB groups). I find myself scanning the posts and thinking "what a good idea... I don't have enough time now, but maybe next year..".

The fact that I don't try to dip my toes into every DS project and idea is a huge step for me. I am a project starter, never a finisher. I somehow always find a way to convince myself I have the time to dedicate to each and every one of my "brilliant" ideas. I just store the started project in my mind, and move to a bigger and better idea.

With World Down Syndrome Day being only a few days away (3/21), I feel as if I did not accomplish everything I could have. Surely there must be enough time to squeeze in another project!

Today I found something that I couldn't believe I hadn't stumbled upon before. It was a fantastic idea and I knew that I had to take part. I wish I would have seen it weeks ago, but I could still make due with the few days left.

It is a campaign to pay-it-forward. In honor of individuals with Down syndrome, and for WDSD, people all around the world are preforming "Random Acts of Kindness".

After joining the Facebook group started for this campaign, I knew it was something that I wanted to do myself. It was perfect! I excitedly started thinking of ways that I could do my own random act of kindness. On the FB group, there were links to print out pre-made cards with information about WDSD and Down syndrome to go along with your random act. Lets get real, we all know if I waited to print out anything it wouldn't happen tonight, which simply means it wouldn't happen at all. Like I said before, I start projects... but never finish them. So I knew if this was something I really wanted to do I needed to quickly do it before something side-tracked me.

I came home from babysitting and told Joe about the idea,

-Me: "Joe, I saw this new idea and I am really excited about it.."

- Joe: "What now??!"

(Okay I did deserve that with all the rambling I usually do about my "great new projects".)

-Me: "Just listen,  there is this thing that people are doing to spread awareness for Down syndrome and it's really cool.  You pick a something nice to do like pay for the person behind you or go out of your way to be kind and then give them a card explaining why you did it. We need to do it!"

-Joe: "That's a good idea babe, but we need people to give us a random act of kindness and pay for us, not the other way around."

Joking aside, he did love the idea and we both talked about what we could do in such short notice. After a lot of not so great ideas, Joe came up with something that I thought would be fun. I made the card, and we headed to the grocery store.

(Some of the card cut off, but you get the point!)

The back of the card I made

Grocery store selfie!

Anthony picked the box of cereal, and we taped on our card with the Starbucks gift card behind it!

Next year, I do hope to start this a lot earlier and do a lot more with it. Some of the ideas people posted about doing were so above and beyond, very cool stuff!

Last year for World Down Syndrome Day we had staff and students in our schools wear blue and yellow to celebrate. This year it was taken to a whole other level, and I can't help but get all emotional just thinking about how wonderful it's going to be.

We are participating in an event called "Rock Your Socks". You wear crazy mismatched socks to show your support for individuals with Down syndrome. I created a video about our family to advertise the event for our school district. The video was shared so many times that it reached other schools/businesses and inspired them to rock their socks on WDSD too! This event is so wide-spread and I never expected to have so many people ready and willing to show their support for Down syndrome. It might not mean much to other people, but it fills me with such hope and love that I could burst.

Anthony is growing up in an amazing world; a world where people are willing to go out of their way to learn about something new, step outside their comfort zone, and show support... a world where people will have his back and he can be free to be himself.

Each year we creep closer to the ultimate goal- acceptance, inclusion, and all around well-being for individuals with Down syndrome. I believe that it all starts with our youth. They see the world how it is presented to them. If we teach kids to "look away" and not ask questions, they will assume that differences are bad. Instead, we need to feed kid's natural curiosity with honest and age-appropriate information so they grow up accepting, respecting and seeing our differences for what they really are- beautiful.

Oh, and if you're looking for a way to teach elementary aged kids about Down syndrome check out my lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers here: Down Syndrome Awareness (World Down Syndrome Day)