It was almost two decades ago, my band was hired to play at an event for a group called ‘Forever Friends.’ During the concert a young man (named Josh) was walking around the audience loudly & passionately playing an out of tune violin that someone had given him. At the time, I found it very disruptive & offensive to say the least. As my frustration grew to a tipping point during the show, I realized this young man had Down Syndrome & wasn’t trying to offend anyone at all. He was sincerely enjoying our music, desperately wanting to play along, and was happy, living his best life. In the moment, it felt like my bad attitude was struck with a bolt of lightning once I realized what was really going on. So I pivoted.
I stopped the concert in the middle of a song & apologized with deep regret to our audience that the band had enountered a very serious problem. Our normal violinist for night was late & I just found out he wouldn’t be unavailable for our show. I told the crowd that the only way we could continue was to find someone else, maybe from the audience, to rescue us & take his spot. Everyone was surprised & seemed disappointed… until I asked Josh to join us on center stage. Words can not describe the expression on Josh’s face when the crowd roared with excitement for him. Josh was a total rockstar for the entire show & one of the most inspiring & passionate performers I’ve seen. Of the hundreds of concerts I’ve done in my life, this was one of the most unforgettable, inspirational, & unscripted moments from a concert that left a lasting impression on me.
Fast forward almost 20 years later to this last Thursday. I was back, this time as a volunteer as the ‘Guest Entertainer.’ I brought an extra guitar and rockstar Josh was the first person to join me on stage. It was amazing.
People that have Down Syndrome are an integral part of our society, and I’ve learned that no matter how busy we are, it’s important to come together to support them and their families. While they may face unique challenges, they are no different from anyone else in their desire to live happy and fulfilling lives.
One of the most powerful ways we can help and encourage them is by providing opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with others. This can be through programs and activities that focus on their individual strengths and interests, such as music, art, sports, or community service. By giving them a chance to explore their passions and connect with others who share their interests, we can help them build self-confidence and a sense of purpose.
‘Forever Friends’ is an amazing organization. They create a welcoming environment where families and people with disabilities feel valued and respected, and where their unique abilities and perspectives are celebrated. They do a great job of breaking down incorrect stereotypes and help others see the incredible potential and contributions of people with this condition. Families are often the primary caregivers and advocates, and their love and support can make all the difference. By offering support and resources to these families, we help them navigate the challenges that come with raising a child with Down Syndrome and ensure that they have the tools they need to provide the best possible care.
Being able to share music each year as a volunteer has been an opportunity that has enriched my own life and given me a new perspective of gratitude and appreciation. When we embrace our differences, share our challenges, and celebrate our rich diversity, we create a more compassionate and vibrant world for all.
If you ever struggle with having a bad attitude, feelings of bitterness, isolation, or even depression, I highly encourage stepping outside your normal routine. Start helping someone else in their challenges and you’ll gain a whole new perspective and appreciation for your own.
“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. And live like it’s heaven on Earth.” – Anonymous
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