Pete is a diabetic in his mid-40s with Down syndrome, and he makes the very best food choices with little to no support. Although he knows what to do, Pete’s blood sugar requires careful attention; he needs insulin injections on a frequent and unpredictable basis. Because of this, Pete is supported at one of our day programs, but he really wants to secure competitive employment.
How—you may ask—do we help him in achieving his dream? By putting forth an intentional effort, and pursuing all of the options and solutions plausible. We can explore new technologies to test his blood sugar; we can explore easy-to-inject-insulin; and we can mobilize our network of contacts—looking for someone else that may have had a similar challenge and overcame it. Above all else we can empower his dream; it all starts with asking questions.
What’s the flip side? What are we accepting if we don’t see the possibilities? What will it mean for Pete if we don’t make the effort to ask questions? The fundamental reality is—by not asking, we’re engaging in a form of discrimination and bias. In turn we’ll be promoting the continuation of a stagnant belief, and acting on a falsified truth that will only bring harm to someone we want to empower. We need to ask questions to get out of our comfort zone; and if we didn’t get the answers we needed the first time—it’s time to ask again.
Recently I watched the most amazing movie called Breathe. It was the true story of a young man named Robin Cavendish, who developed polio and became paralyzed from the neck down. He needed a respirator to breathe, and was told that he would need to live out the rest of his life in a hospital; but Robin and his wife decided that he would go home. They pushed past the conventional wisdom of the late 1950s because he wanted a life. Little did he know—that in doing so, Robin forged a path for others to follow. He inspired the creation of a battery-powered respirator that enabled him to move about in his community and beyond, without being tethered to a room or a wall outlet for power. Inspiration is all about our ‘WHY,’ and if we ask ourselves ‘WHY’— Pete will achieve his dream in 2019.
As we’re being inspired, we need to remain cognizant of what inclusion really means— being a part of the world; and being seen and valued in the world, not just existing in it. We help create stronger, more inclusive communities when we explore possibilities, mobilize resources, and empower dreams. We have a responsibility to do what needs to be done, to empower those we serve and continue to keep the promise of our mission; that is after all, our most important new year’s resolution. Happy New Year!