Friday, October 16, 2009

A Small Act of Love, from Brother to Sister

If you're (lucky enough) to be in the inclusive community of people and loved ones with developmental disabilities, then it is likely that you've heard of Soeren Palumbo. Maybe he's even a hero of yours, like he is to me. If you have not heard of him, let me have the honor of introducing him.

In a self proclaimed small act of love, Soeren gave an unforgettable speech to his high school peers that sparked a movement. The speech was about a brother's love for his sister with a developmental disability and his anger and frustration with our culture's prolific use of the word "retard" as an insult and synonym for stupid, clumsy, unfortunate, less-than. He minced no words as he drew parallels to racial epitaphs. His speech was meant for his school alone, an auditorium of 400. His father uploaded it to youtube and his words started a campaign that has reached thousands.

The love of a brother for his sister is powerful. It can and has moved mountains. It has educated masses. It has changed minds. It has made this world a safer and more compassionate place. Soeren has been featured in the media and has travelled, not just in this country, but all over the world. He is a co-founder of the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign. All for the love of his sister.

In July (cuz I'm not really busy or anything), I agreed to take on the role of VP of our local Down syndrome group. Besides raking in loads of cash and acclaim, my job is to book speakers for our monthly meetings. This month we had a speaker's panel of siblings to a person with Ds. Our panel consisted of a 20 year old young woman who's 23 year old sister has Ds, a 14 year old girl whose 5 year old brother has Ds, and a 14 year old boy whose 4 year old sister has Ds.

Their responses to some very serious questions will stay with me for a long time. They were honest, candid, real, mature beyond their years, and passionate. What struck me the most was their obvious love for their siblings.

They see their sibling as a person first. Yet, there is no denying the earth shaking effects on their lives and world-views. If you ask them, they are the ones who are blessed BECAUSE of their sibling.

I wonder, did we just happen to pick an extraordinary group of young people to speak? Is this a reflection of the times and how far we have come? What can we learn from their parents who have clearly done exceptional jobs in teaching their children/splitting their time/educating them/showering them with love?

As I look to the (not so distant) future, I often wonder about Alexander and Helena and what they might share in such a panel. From what I have already seen in Alexander, I'm certain I'll have a lot to be proud of and grateful for. In fact, I already am.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

Wow, Jen, what a great clip. I am glad you posted it. It shows we can make a difference one person at a time. We just have to keep fighting the good fight.