To my amused chagrin, Gus frequently initiates conversations with friends and strangers alike with this topic serving as the ice breaker. Due to the combination of his excitement to share and his challenged elocution, not many people catch the gist of what he’s saying without clarification by mom or dad.
In light of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) being a month away, it seemed only appropriate to begin our conversation the same way that Gus would if he were standing in front of you.
How did we get here? I am still in shock when I step back and look at the evolution of our annual kindness tradition. My wife’s brainchild started out as a simple opportunity to demonstrate the value of altruism to our kids. I don’t know if we expressed it exactly in these words but it was almost like “Hey, watch how happy this will make someone and then remember how nice it feels inside to know that you did it.”
Since WDSD inspired the concept, we realized the interaction between giver and receiver of the kindness provided a platform to spread a message about inclusion and awareness for our friends with the bonus chromosome. It was the perfect marriage.
Enter our extended family, friends, educators, and surrounding community. Close loved ones were on board from the get go, which helped plant the seeds among their social contacts. As word spread and momentum grew, the network of enthusiastic participants grew exponentially. The kids’ teachers and schools embraced the idea with ease, especially since the message dovetailed so appropriately with their inclusive philosophy already. And then local businesses started stepping up and offering extremely generous philanthropy. Next thing you know, a freaking television camera was in our house!
A lot of people have asked what they can do. Honestly, the short answer is literally anything you want. The gesture does not have to be elaborate at all. Simple is sweet. However, the opportunity certainly invites creativity so have fun with it. And if you have a “kindness card” with Gus’ smiling face to accompany your gift, that is wonderful - but not necessary.
We heard that some people were reluctant to post their photos on the group FB page last year. If the hesitation was because you’re on the bashful side - totally understood. Pics are of course not mandatory to participate.
But if you paused because you’ve never met Gus or our family for example, or were worried for appearing to seek attention for self-promotion, just know that the whole point of image sharing is to celebrate the event jointly with all participants both near and far. Remember, it’s the thought that counts here, not page views. While I cringe at the thought of the haters who roll their eyes (because there is always that rotten apple out there,) those of us who get it know we are participating and sharing photos for all the right reasons.
I suspect that Michelle will drive around Easton for a month stalking unsuspecting friends and strangers alike, only to stage an ambush and give them one of the many donated gifts from the very charitable business partners who get on board. She will likely subject you to taking a few dozen photographs as well, so be warned!
For the folks out there who have participated before in our little acts of kindness movement for Gus or other homies with extra chromies, the Teravainen family extend our heartfelt thanks! The other day, I walked into a restaurant in town and saw Gus’ kindness card taped against a wall. I beamed with pride at the thought that someone may have bought a margarita for a stranger.
For those of you who will be first timers this year, we can’t wait to hear what you did.
So in the next few weeks, let’s go out there and kick this new season of kindness off - preferably without kicking your friend in the face.
Happy 2019 WDSD!