Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Simple Act of Love

Last night I sat on my deck and watched the sky play a game of cat and mouse with me. I wanted to be in a comfortable state of mind, so I had taken some pillows from our living room and heaped them in a corner of our deck.

My sketchpad lay open, and I stared down at the stark white page. I am not an artist, but my fingers itched to translate the beauty of the sky into a visual feast on paper.

Scrolls of cerulean blue, magenta, and deep ochre painted the canvas above me. Maybe the colours would leap to life under my paintbrush if I concentrated long and hard enough. I bent over my sketchpad, engrossed in getting the colours just right.

How much easier it would be if I didn't need a paintbrush...I imagined the colours magically falling from the sky and coming to rest on my page. Suddenly, the paintbrush came alive in my hand, and I didn't look up until I felt the classic 'aha' moment. That moment when a little voice in the creative hub room whispers, You got it, baby...

But while I had been struggling to capture the moment, the sky had shape shifted into something else entirely.

By the time I had painstakingly created something that could safely be tacked to the storage-shed wall, the sun had dipped behind a bank of trees.

The sun was gone, but it was a warm night. It held the kind of darkness that is strangely comforting. I was reluctant to leave my nest of pillows, so I waited for the darker, nighttime orb to take its place in the sky.

A faint breeze moved across the backyard, gently riffling its fingers through the trees, and through my hair. The moon was smudged over by layers of gauzy cloud, and I basked in the stillness of the night. Inside the circle of the moon was a network of lacy webs, like the Spirograph patterns I loved to create as a child.

The artistry took my breath away. Maybe the play of light was creating something out of nothing, but whatever the case, I was enjoying the show.

It struck me that the moon didn't choose to reveal breathtaking beauty. It didn't labour in front of the mirror, for hours at a time, intent on showing itself to maximum effect.

It simply showed up. Like a simple act of love. It arrives without any fanfare, and asks nothing of us.

My thoughts strayed to my friend, and fellow board member of Ideal-Way, Robert Hajjar. Before the birth of Ideal-Way, Robert sat down with his Aunt Ad and Uncle Don. He took a plain wooden box from under his bed, and emptied it. Nickels, dimes, and quarters spilled helter-skelter across the smooth expanse of his bedspread. Together, they counted the coins out loud.

Robert sat back and held his breath. His entire life savings, held out in the palm of his hand, for the sake of others.

He figured it would be in the thousands. But the amount didn't matter. He just knew, in his gut, that what he was doing was right. God had told him that his Aunt Ad was the perfect person to start up a company for people just like him. And he would be the first donor.

As the last coin was deposited in the box, Ad held up her hand.

"Attention, everyone! The final amount is...drum roll, please...Sixty-two dollars and five cents!"

That was the beginning. The first donation to Ideal-Way. I wasn't there. I didn't see the tears in Ad's eyes, or Don turn away and cough sharply. I can only imagine Rob's gentle smile as he handed over the wooden box to his Aunt Ad.

"Do what God told me to tell you. Start something for people like me. Make their lives better...because they can't do it for themselves," Rob said.

As I sat on my deck, watching the sky transform from one glorious vision to another, it prompted me to think that I don't need to work so hard to get things 'just right.'

Maybe it's time to leave the sketchpad at home, and just show up. Follow the lead of a Down syndrome man who didn't struggle for one second with his decision to give everything away.

Rob is a reminder to shine your light into every corner of your world. And don't be afraid to offer whatever gifts you have. The beauty contained in a simple act of love will transform every life around you.


Jackie said...

I love the way it flows together; the way the story of Rob just goes so well with the painting. Keep up the good work!

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you for your encouraging words, Jackie.

I will continue to write about Rob, who is Ideal-Way's Founding Director, so if you are interested in reading more about him, please check our blog, from time to time!

Gordo said...

What an interesting new site!

I used your link to the website and it's a happening organization.

My neighbour has a son with Down syndrome, late twenties, I think.
I have never met a Down syndrome person that I didn't like.

Word is that Bill Gates has an intellectual disability called Asperger's syndrome--a sort of high-functioning autism.

The world needs to be more aware of 'hidden' talents in unlikely places. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog and what an inspirational organization. Keep up the good work. Very interesting!

I visited to learn more about what they do. Do I ever wish they were in my city. I know two families that have a member with an intellectual disability.

I spent a few hours on the IDEAL site and was very touched and impressed. These exceptional people do need our support. Your blog has definitely made me think about the things I take for granted. God bless you and your team!

Dallas, TX

Brian said...

Wow! Looks like there is quite a bit of talent in this blog and in the charitable organization IDEAL-WAY.

Prior to stumbling upon your site, I had been feeling like I should be doing something charitable. It seems like the people who step outside of themselves are the ones who are the happiest.

There is a group home that is not too far from where I live. I often see these guys in the grocery store, in the neighbourhood, etc. A few of the guys have Down syndrome and other disabilities. The website has inspired me to take the time to talk to these guys when I see them. Who knows where this will lead. Afterall, doesn't everyone want to be acknowledged and loved? Thanks for opening up my heart...Calgary, Ontario

Anonymous said...

As the parent of an Autistic child, I can't tell you how heartwarming all of this is to me.

Your blog is beautifully written, and I just love what IDEAL-WAY stands for. It is about time society truly recognizes the gifts of these special people and it is amazing that the Founder of IDEAL-WAY has Down Syndrome. From what I can see, Robert is going to be invited to speak all over the world. A parent's dream come true!!
Sure hope you are planning to visit Vancouver, BC. All the best!

Hailey B. said...

Came across your impressive blog while surfing the net. You Canadians have certainly caught on to this new phenomenon! How incredibly proud his parents must be, to have raised a son who would give his all to help those like him! Everyone should be so lucky as to have a "Robert" cross their path. We can all learn from what these special individuals have to offer .... I just did!

Hailey B., Palo Alto

Jenny said...

An amazing start to what looks like a very unique and much-needed blog! I think this will have the power to reach a great many people - this one post was a small step that has a big future!

Christy said...

Thank you for the beautiful comment Jackie. I'll check back often to keep up on how Ideal-Way is growing their support for our community of people with diverse abilities.

T.A., Peggy's Cove said...

About time people were educated about Down syndrome, Autism, Asperger's, etc. My friend's son has Asperger's and it has not been easy, for sure! Hope my neighbour's autistic child is able to access necessary therapy before it's too late and they have to leave the Province!
Thanks for info on Ideal-Way site ...
will check it out!

Gordo said...

This is my third visit to this site and I just checked out the slideshow.

Lots of happy faces on what must be ideal-way clients. Obviously, somebody is doing something very right, for them.

What is the scoop on the outdoors large group in the first pic?

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, all, for your feedback. I enjoyed reading your insightful comments on the need for our society to recognize, and therefore benefit, from the intellectually disabled's God-given gifts.

Gordo, please go to, and click on Events, for more pictures of the Argos 2007 Ceremonial Kick-off. Robert did an amazing job - we have a picture of him in mid-kick! - and there are a couple of photos of him with Pinball Clemons. If you're curious about the rest of the pictures in the slideshow, check out Bowling Woodchippers, and Bowling Etobicoke, in the Events section.

I will also be posting more pictures - and true accounts of their generosity, courage, and faith - so please keep checking back in! I appreciate your input - and would be grateful for any suggestions you have concerning changes, or additions, to the blog.

Gordo said...

maureen lee,
Glad you will "continue to write about Rob". Good for him to have come up with the idea, and good for you for spreading the word. More people need to know about what is going on in the world of intellectual disability. God bless.

I followed your suggestion to visit and click on Events. The threads in there were interesting and informative, thanks.

It looks like their organization is actually doing lots of new and innovative things for persons with Down syndrome, Aspergers, etc.

Is the large group at the start of the slideshow sponsors or clients?

Maureen Lee said...

Gordo, No, the group in the first picture is the CFL Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders, with Robert Pio Hajjar the charismatic Founder of front and centre. Rob laughed loudly whenever he was teased about his "harem" of lovely ladies.

On that particular day, had taken a 32 person group of persons with intellectual disability to watch a live, professional football game. Robert Hajjar even performed the ceremonial kickoff.

fyi, the pic location is beside the football field, in the Rogers Centre in Toronto, just before an Argos game against the neighbourhood CFL rivals, Hamilton Tiger-cats. Argos won the game. A great time was had by all.

Anonymous said...

A friend referred me to your blog. Loved your reflections on the turkeys, especially the parasol comment! Checked out the IDEAL website and would very much like to match the $62.05 donation made by that interesting young lad, Robert Hajjar. Where do I forward my cheque? Keep up the good work. Have you thought about posting recipes, by the way?

Charlie C., Palo Alto

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Charlie, for your kind words. And please thank your friend, from me, for referring you to our blog!, and especially that 'interesting young lad, Robert Hajjar', is grateful for your contribution.

You can forward a cheque to:
33A-145 The West Mall
Toronto, Ontario
M9C 4V2

You must have read my mind, Charlie. I will, indeed, be posting recipes. One of our board members, Janette Hajjar (Robert's mom) is a wonderful cook, and I managed to convince her to contribute some of her favourite recipes to our blog (no easy feat!).

If you have some recipes of your own that you'd like to see posted, please send them to

Thanks again, Charlie.

Gordo said...

All this chit chat about recipes makes me hungry. Just kidding, it's Fathers Day and I pigged out.

But, reading the recipe reminded me of reading somewhere that many with intellectual disability are not able to know when their tummies are full and so, they commonly tend to "pig out" to the point where group homes sometimes need to padlock the refrigerator door.

This seems extreme.
But, maybe that's just me?

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that i am sooo proud of the work you are doing and i think that this is going somewhere BIG!!!! you guys rock my life!!!

Patrice said...

I want to thank all of you that have taken the time to post your comments on our blog. We love your feedback and hope you will make a point of keeping your eye on our web site as to not miss updated pictures and events. We are all part of the team that wants to see great things through IDEAL-Way take place.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you, Ideal Way, for visiting us in Woodstock! The poetry contest winner loved her prize from Robert and me and my friends love the backpacks you gave all of us. Thank you, thank you! Come again to see us, please.
P.S. My mom helped me write this because it was hard by myself.

Maureen Lee said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for visiting IDEAL-WAY's blog, and let me tell you: members of IDEAL-WAY had a wonderful time with you in Woodstock!

We're so glad that you had a good time, and we will be back!

(If anyone is wondering what anonymous is referring to, please check out this article which appeared in the Woodstock Sentinel Review:'Reilly%2c+STAFF+WRITER)

Addie said...

Hi, Maureen:

Thank you for the wonderful blogs you have been posting. When I read 'A Simple Act of Love', I relived that magical moment when my heart was open to hear what Rob had to say. Oftentimes, we are far too busy to listen to anybody, let alone someone with Down syndrome. Today, I cannot imagine life without

As you know, our 2008 Ideal Poetry Contest has closed. What an amazing Contest it has been! We were told that a Poetry Contest that receives 50 entries is considered to be successful. Ideal-Way received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of entries. A big thank you to all who participated and supported this World First event.

We are enjoying many road trips visiting the winners as well as other groups that we wanted to recognize for their superior efforts. Our trip to Hamilton yesterday was fabulous. Community Living Hamilton had arranged for many people to be present for our presentation of awards.

During our many stops, Don, Rob and me were so happy to meet many of the people who have checked out our Blog! Get yourself ready for the influx of emails from individuals who would like their poetry posted.

You are doing an amazing job, Maureen. Congratulations.

Maureen Lee said...

Addie, I read recently that attitude starts at the top and spreads throughout an organization, good or bad. I am grateful that IDEAL-WAY was created by such warm, caring people who treat their volunteers with respect and consideration, never failing to encourage and praise them, when the occasion calls for it. Thank you, Addie!

And thank you for reinforcing the importance of listening to others - for everyone has a gift - and imagine if you had NOT heard Rob's message about the importance of creating a company for special needs individuals?

I am in the process of collecting photos of your road trips and will post them under the title, 'Out on the Town'.

Here's to many more road trips, events, outings, and contests!

Susan C. said...

Absolutely wonderful and heartwarming reading. I have bookmarked your site.

Warmest regards from Woodstock, Ontario.

Maureen Lee said...

Susan, thank you for visiting our blog - and bookmarking it!

And thank you for your feedback - we appreciate everyone taking the time to leave a comment.

Gordo said...

The comments on this blog about the importance of “listening to others” reminds me of my family’s philosophy which is

“Listen a lot: learn a lot.
But, listen not: learn naught.”

Looking forward to checking out your pics in “Out on the Town”. Keep up the great work.

Yvette said...

I never met a person with Down syndrome that I didn't like. They all have big hearts, with much love to give.

Love your blog so much - just subscribed to it, in fact!

Tracy, Dearborn, Mich. said...

Congrats on your terrific and informative blog, Maureen! Your reflections on persons with Down syndrome and the Ideal Way organization are welcomed by all of us who live with and love these individuals.
Cain's poem touched me to the core! To think an 11 year old wrote this is remarkable. Truly a gift from God not only to his family but the rest of us!

Gordo said...

As a repeat viewer of this blog, I keep on wondering about the significance of the above photo? Just curious.

Love your blog by the way, and the website.

Great stuff! Thanks a lot.

Yvette said...

Awesome! Considering the high quality in 11 year old Cain's poem, one can be excused for expecting that such a young writer is intellectually gifted, and not intellectually disabled.

Bravo, Cain!

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