Tuesday, December 20, 2016
All it takes is one open-minded person to change our children's world
Recently, my friend Hannah Jacobs of Family Member messaged me a link to an article about a 33-year-old man with Down syndrome who is a firefighter.
One day about a year ago, Jason Eagan walked into the firehouse in Sandoval, Illinois, and said he wanted to become a firefighter, reports the Belleville News-Democrat. He got an application, and Lieutenant Matt Horn helped him fill it out. Eagan returned daily. A month later, the crew took a vote. Not all were in favor. "But in our bylaws," Horn said, "it doesn't say someone with Down syndrome can't help us."
Eagan passed the firefighter physical, signed the paperwork and joined as a cadet. These days, he helps with equipment, gets trucks ready for calls, does chores around the fire house, pitches in at fundraisers, and makes fire-safety presentations at schools.
"...When he told me that was his dream his whole life, to be a firefighter, I couldn't give up on him," Horn said. "I had to find a way to fit him into our fire department, and so far this seems to be working pretty good."
My heart beat faster when I read that. It gave me hope for Max, who also aspires to be a firefighter. And it just gave me hope, period.
"All our kids need is one kind person who can see past their disability and honor their dreams," noted Hannah, mom to a young woman with intellectual disability. And it's true. As much as parents wish for legions of people out there who can see our children's potential—and see our children, period, not just their disability—that's not often the case. Try as we might, there is only so much we alone can do for our children. But then one person can open a door, as Matt Horn did for Jason Eagan.
I'm familiar with the power of one.
Max has had the good fortune of having a teacher who's made him believe he is a smart guy, and who was pivotal in getting him to read.
He's been blessed that last summer, a camp director welcomed him into a program, instead of turning him away as other camps have because he needs a helping hand.
Max has benefitted from friendships with firefighters at our local station who welcome him with genuine warmth, answer his questions and sit around with him in their living quarters and chat like he is just one of the guys.
This year, the owner of a dance school unhesitatingly welcomed Max to the school for tap dance lessons. And I mean unhesitatingly. Every single time, he is thrilled to go, and he walks out of the class with the biggest grin on his face.
All it takes is one person. That could be you.
Coming up tomorrow: A film by a brother of a woman with Down syndrome who made her Hollywood dream a reality.
Image: Screengrab/BND video