Today Wil and Manny went bowling. Both are teens with Down syndrome. Manny’s mom, Laura, and I share frequently about our plans, thoughts and concerns for the future. Thoughts about our boys as they age out of the school system; after friends have moved on to college, to jobs, to get married. How will our boys adapt to the change? What programs are available now and in the works for the future? And of the programs available, are they a good fit for our boys?

Last night my friend, Cheri, who’s son CJ (who you may know from his weather reports—WCJR weather) called me. CJ is graduating high school this year and also has Ds. Cheri and I shared our thoughts and plans for our boys’ futures. Cheri is always a step ahead of me in raising CJ, and I learn greatly from her experiences.

Not everyone has a teen child with Ds. We must actively seek one another out, actively seek out programs, and discern if what’s available is the appropriate fit for our soon-to-be adults. In fact, just today, Wil had an interview with a summer camp I’ve tried for years to get him into. Wil is ready for an overnight camp, but not without an aide. Just going to a typical summer camp is not an option for him. And that is the case for many people with disabilities; thus the long waiting list. The interviewer said Wil’s a really good fit, but spaces are very limited. She was wonderful, we connected immediately, and said she’d do what she can for him to get in.

Recently talking with my friend, Vanessa, who has a teen daughter w Ds said to me, “You bend for the ones you love.” That statement delivered great clarity to me. It makes sense of what connects me to a camp counselor I just met on a 30 minute Zoom meeting, but knew her innate understanding immediately; and also what connects me, on a deeper level, with my friends. We bend to create understanding and opportunities for people with disabilities. We bend together for the ones we love.

As Vanessa spoke those words, I visualized trees that stay closed in, protecting the roots they know, refusing to bend. Then I visualized trees firmly rooted in love, but with branches reaching, stretching, bending, some almost impossibly yet never breaking, open to receive the sun along with the rain — both of which serve to strengthen them.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? 😉

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