Friday, August 1, 2008

Dare to Dream

Robert Hajjar, Founder of, and Michael 'Pinball' Clemons, CFL Legend and Toronto Argonauts CEO.

"All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." Walt Disney

"All the world's a stage." William Shakespeare

When I was four or five years old, I would escape to the sanctuary of my bedroom to sing my heart out. I would stand before the large mirror that hung over my bureau, spread my arms wide, and take a deep breath.

The stage was set, my audience silent as a tomb, waiting with bated breath for me to enter the stage. I hung back in the wings, tentative at first, and just when the tension was almost too much to bear, I'd open my mouth and sing for all the world to hear.

It was always the same. I didn't need props, or costumes, or even other people. My dream to sing and dance would play out, and I was both the audience and the player.

At the end of every performance, the audience would rise in unison, and thundering applause would fill the room. It was a spontaneous, enthusiastic response to my evident gift for life on the stage, and I knew, for a brief moment, what it was to live out my dreams.

The adrenaline rush of placing my gifts and passions in the bowl of the world's hands was extraordinary.

Like most childhood dreams, it didn't last long. After years of playing to packed houses, I eventually grew bored with it. It was a silly game, pointless, and anyway, I had better things to do with my time, I told myself.

The dream was buried, along with many other dreams and wishes, sealed away in a time capsule deep within me.

As I was driving back from a friend's home the other day, I hummed along to a song from around that time. Mama Cass crooned "Dream a Little Dream of Me." It's a romantic song, full of longing, but I couldn't help but think the title applies to most of us.

As children, we're certain that our dreams can take us anywhere. There are no physical limits on our flights of fancy, and sometimes they travel where we dare not go.

But somewhere along the line, we take our larger-than-life dreams and whittle them down to something more bite size. Our dream to perform on the stage becomes a talent for telling a darned good joke at a cocktail party. Our stripped-down dreams are tucked somewhere far away, into a distant place where we can no longer hear their siren songs. The delirious feelings of 'soaring on wings of eagles', climbing the highest peaks, or exploring the deepest chasms, are deemed unrealistic.

We dream a little dream of me. And then there are those people who use their dreams as stepping-stones on paths to rich and rewarding lives. Raymond Hu, Bernadette Resha, and Michael Johnson. Sujeet Desai and Chris Burke, to name a few. Artists, musicians, and actors, who have placed no limits on their creativity, gifts and passions, because they aren't content to stand in the wings. What they accomplished took courage, readiness, willingness, and a deep desire to share their gifts with the rest of us.

They have something else in common: they all have Down syndrome. Dare to dream, they tell us with their gifts.

If I take up their clarion call, and give permission to myself to step out of the wings and into the center of the stage, why can't I do the same for others?

While I'm in the process of encouraging myself to dream big, I can step away from the center of the stage and applaud my fellow players.

If you're interested in viewing a video of Down syndrome children and adults who have dared to dream big, click here.


Yvonne said...

maureen lee, you have a wonderful gift for alliteration and your descriptive writing creates many visuals for readers.

it is encouraging that so many persons with Down syndrome have achieved their "fifteen minutes of fame", and more.

unfortunately, mainstream persons generally ignore or avoid, or mock their fellow citizens with DS.

there must be many more persons with DS, etc., that have yet to be recognized as worthy of their "fifteen minutes of fame".

I, for one, thank God that there exists a fabulous charitable organization like which is, slowly but surely, educating us 'normal' ones to respect, encourage, include our fellow citizens with DS, Autism and all the other intellectual disabilities.

Keep up your good work. I love this blog!

Gordo said...

I have never met a person with Down syndrome that I didn't like. DS seems to bring out a gift for spreading innocent love throughout their universe.

Robert Hajjar of ideal-way, Raymond Hu, Bernadette Resha, and Michael Johnson, Sujeet Desai and Chris Burke are recognized as having not allowed having DS to keep them from contributing to the betterment of our world, and theirs.

One has to wonder, how many uniquely talented others with DS are 'out there', unrecognized ... lost opportunities for them, as well as for mainstream society.

Joan from Ottawa said...

Maureen you have truly touched me with your "Dare to Dream" story. Seeing the statistics about persons with Down syndrome was very enlightening. I see them everywhere. Just in my building alone, there are 3. And, they have big hearts. To see what they can do is even better. My sister and I checked out website and think your organization is remarkable. Dare to Dream...Robert did!

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, all, for your comments. Gordo, your words took my breath away: "DS seems to bring out a gift for spreading innocent love throughout their universe."

Yes, Robert Hajjar taught me that all I need to do in life is just show up. Shine your light into every corner of your world. They give unconditional love to everyone they meet, for they know that it is not what we do in life, but who we are that counts.

Thank you, Joan, for visiting our website, and Yvonne, we appreciate your kind words.

simona said...

you was a make beleive singer as a kid and me too, thanks for bringing back my old memmories. kids dont have to give up dreaming big except adults keep bugging them about it. thats somethin I realy like about this here Blog because its down to earth and positive everywhere about down sindrome and autism and others. I checked ot all of you're links to the people with down sindrome and they are amazing. Ther moms and dads must be proud.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Simona, for your kind words, and for taking the time to check out the links in Dare to Dream.

Yes, their moms and dads must be very proud of all of them. And isn't it wonderful that all of these parents encouraged their kids to dream big?

Aside from being a singer, what other dreams do you have, Simona?

simona said...

yes these kids have wunnerful good parents.

its nice of you to ask me maureen lee and the anser is I like too day dream about everbuddy bein repected equal in a better world.
probly like these kids parents did

im glad you incldue neat links to.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Simona, for answering my question! You truly are an example of someone who dreams big - I'll join hands with you and dream the same dream. One day, we'll celebrate the differences in one another, the things that make us unique, and we'll see that we were all created equal.

I'll continue to include links to sites I think are helpful, too. Keep dreaming, Simona!

Voucher Codes said...

I certainly agree with the thought of Walt Disney,because I feel the same.

Lisa in Whitby said...

Love your blog!!! I recently read something which will remain with me forever ...

"We should all have a bit of Down syndrome in us."

Maureen Lee said...

Lisa, what a beautiful way to express our need to listen and learn from individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. I couldn't agree with you more!

April Jasey said...

Maureen, I see you were chosen Top Health Blogger ... DS Community.
Congratulations and great job on your blog!!! From all the buzz these days about the founder of Ideal Way, Robert Hajjar, and watching him on You Tube, it's no wonder people are taking notice of these wonderful individuals. I know from personal experience the blessings they bring to all who love them.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you for your kind words, April. Robert Hajjar truly is a wonder. Along with other members of IDEAL WAY, I was given a tour of New Leaf, a rural therapeutic community for dual diagnosed adults. Robert got everyone on their feet, dancing and singing up a storm. Robert continues to encourage us to dare to dream - and never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.

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