Recently, Hope and I had the privilege of attending the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention in Orlando. We were 2 of the over 4000 individuals in attendance—many of whom had Down syndrome. This is only our 4th convention in 23 years, although I wish we had participated in all of them. It may not sound like a very exciting event, but for those of us who attended, it is a pretty phenomenal experience.
This convention is a time for families who have something in common to gather, to share their stories and concerns, to listen and learn from world renowned experts in the field, to relax and feel normal and not alone. It’s a time for siblings to meet with other siblings from across the country and not feel weird or invisible, and it’s also a time for our children and adults with Down syndrome to socialize, be celebrated and learn how to be more independent and advocate for themselves. For some families, it’s a time of vacation, or a time to connect with new friends and reconnect with old ones.
It’s the one time of year where you feel like you truly belong—your child is just like everyone else’s child. It’s a weekend to share, be vulnerable, exposing your fears and heartaches. It’s also a time to recharge, get excited about the new ideas you’ve learned and the opportunities to put them to work when you return home.
Belonging is a desire that’s common for all human beings. We all want a place to feel at home—a place where we can be vulnerable, be accepted and be ourselves. We want to take off our “everything’s great” face and just be in the moment.
It was a beautiful sight to walk into the front entrance of the massive Orlando resort and see hundreds of people with Down syndrome. It’s even more beautiful to hear your daughter say, “There’s one, Mom, and another one and another one.” She recognizes “her people.”
So how do we bring this weekend of “fitting in” back home? We become passionate about sharing with others what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced. We become brave people by being vulnerable. In her NY Times bestseller, Daring Greatly, Brene’ Brown defines being vulnerable as “…having the courage to show up when we have no control over the outcome. It is our greatest measure of courage.” Being vulnerable is scary, but others need to hear your stories.
We all have stories that God has woven into our lives. His desire is for us to share our brokenness, heartaches and experiences. In doing so, we allow people to let their guard down and find comfort in “fitting in” with someone who’s been there.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
This is discipleship…living alongside others, sharing life with them and giving them a glimpse of hope that only God can provide.
Think about it…don’t you like to hang around others who are authentic, who share their struggles and weaknesses and don’t pretend to have it altogether?
Be that to someone else. Share your stories. It’s healthy living for the soul.