"Well, what can I remember most? It has to be my nephew's desire to drive. Drive anything. It all started with a big wheel, the three wheeler with the large front wheel. When he was just a little guy, the two of us would go for a long walk/ride. Me on one side and him on the other, taking up the whole sidewalk. Crazy thing is, he never looked ahead, only down and/or to the side. Loved to watch the ground go by beneath him. All the while, running over anything in his way, or worse, my feet. As he got to be a better "driver," he graduated to shopping carts. Beware anybody who got in front of him, you were fair game, as the cart's front wheels peeled the skin off your ankles. Now resigned to the fact that he won't drive a car, he has his mother sit in the backseat of the car when his family goes on a trip, while he and his father sit up front. You need a good navigator, you know."
What he didn’t mention was that he also puts his friends and family first. “I see all of you as my friends,” he told the riveted audience at Sacred Heart.
As founder of IDEAL-WAY, Robert was speaking on behalf of Best Buddies. (Sacred Heart has one of the largest contingents of volunteer students for Best Buddies.) After he gave his speech – and received a standing ovation – student members of Best Buddies and their developmentally challenged friends got up on stage and wowed the crowd with a rousing dance number to “I’ve Gotta Feeling”, by The Black Eyed Peas.
As they strutted their stuff on the stage, it got me thinking about what it means to be a true friend and why it’s so important to have at least one person you can connect with on a deep level.
“Best Buddies is grounded in the belief that friendship is important to the development of all individuals and that for all people with intellectual disabilities friendship is a medium through which they can become a part of their communities… For a person with an intellectual disability, friendship helps to ease the isolation, disempowerment or loneliness that often deepens the challenges that he or she faces daily. By having a student friend, Buddies are able to explore their world with a peer who brings empathy, laughter and support.”
Of course, friends are essential when you’re hanging off the edge of a cliff by your fingernails.
“Although they have known each other for just a few months, Baldwin High School students Heather Paranada and Rachel Barrett know the true meaning of friendship. As peer buddies in the Best Buddies Chapter at Baldwin, they are part of Best Buddies Hawai‘i. Rachel is not only intellectually disabled, but she also has a condition called Kyphoscoliosis…[which is] a curving of the spine that causes a bowing of the back, with scoliosis, a condition in which the spine curves away from the middle, or sideways.”
Rachel was told she would need to have a “very difficult” operation. Rachel bravely traveled to the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., to undergo two surgeries. At their first meeting, Heather presented Rachel with a teddy bear, necklace and bracelet to take on her trip and comfort her throughout her surgeries. “I wasn’t able to say bye to her at the airport before she left, but I did call her to say goodbye and she was sad,” she said. “But I told her it’s not goodbye, it’s ‘see you later.’” “I’ve been emailing her since she left, and Mrs. Barrett has been updating all of us of Rachel’s condition,” she said. “Everyone at Best Buddies is really pulling for Rachel and awaiting her return to Maui,” said McCormick. “They are following Rachel’s progress very closely.” " [Excerpt from The Maui Weekly, by Sarah Ruppenthal.]
In the first post of this blog, I wrote that "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."
Photo: Matthew Amos.