April 18, 2017 | By Lori J. McClure - Assistant Director
ACTIONWhen you hear the heartwarming stories of how individuals have stepped up to bring those with disabilities into an inclusive setting, you may be moved to act. However, you may not know what or how.
Last year I wrote a couple posts on how easy it is to just warmly open opportunities of inclusion to those who are different, but still valuable. My son, Liam’s story was heard/seen by over a quarter of a million people of how a football team brought him in as an equal and through that action changed his world and gave him the opportunity to use the word “friend”.
I have another story. This story is not about a group a people, but one individual who in my opinion, went above and beyond, without any self-declaration, to successfully include my son in a traditional school event known as “Mr. Methacton”.
Every year a group of senior boys audition to participate in a fundraiser for the school council based around a “pageant”. My son had his heart set on participating. I have never been one to stop him from initiating participation in any activity. I always figure I would hear whether it was possible or not, one way or another.
As the days went on, yes, he was given the opportunity to participate. One of the teachers who was overseeing the event, Mrs. Janssen, was extremely conscientious making sure she communicated with me all the details, needs and requirements for Liam to be fully engaged. I was so touched by her willingness to email me and call when needed. I could tell she wanted Liam to have a good time engaging with his peers.
The night of Mr. Methacton came and there was my boy, up on stage, singing and dancing with seventeen other high school seniors. There were some hiccups along the way, but nothing detracting from the huge smile on his face. A few of his friends from the football team were front and center chanting his name and giving him a standing ovation for his bongo/conga solo. It was an amazing night. My gratitude for this teacher was overflowing and her authentic desire and pleasure of seeing Liam enjoy himself was a beautiful thing.
The evening was over, time moved on. A few weeks later, Liam plopped a green booklet on the kitchen counter. Handwritten on the cover was “Mr. Methacton”. I leafed through the booklet and on every page, were a few sentences describing what was going to happen throughout the Mr. Methacton event. There were explanations of how Liam could respond to different situations if they arose. This was a story book about the night preparing Liam to be as successful as possible. I had no idea who would have put this together for him. No one said anything to me, nor took credit for it. The time it took for someone to put this handwritten document together; the love and concern for my boy was overwhelming.
When Liam arrived home I asked him who made this book for him? He told me it was Mrs. Janssen. A teacher who owed my son nothing, not only went above and beyond to communicate with me throughout the rehearsal process, to ensure Liam was fully equipped for his role, she also provide a tool for my boy so he could be mentally and emotionally prepared for whatever might happen that night. She sacrificed time and love to educate, protect and enable him to participate with dignity and joy. What a precious and priceless gift Mrs. Janssen gave my son but me as well.
Action does not have to be big. It does not have to have massive pomp and circumstance. Action is love and thought in small ways that equal a big impact. Opening a door of inclusion and walking alongside a person with differences to ensure their full engagement is all it takes. I believe not only will you change their lives, yours will be changed too. Action equals LOVE. There is no greater opportunity and easy way to bring change and an everlasting impact than to LOVE, just like Mrs. Janssen.