Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wanna make the world a better place ???

It started like most other visits in preparation for a funeral ...
"Tell me about her?" I asked of the deceased.
They gave me her age. She was in her late 50's. And they said she was kind ... Then they fell silent.
I sensed something, but I couldn't put my finger on it ...
"What did she do for a living?" I ventured quietly.
"Um ..." her brother looked across the room at their mother and swallowed before he spoke quietly, "my sister never worked. She never did anything. Her life was kind of empty."
"Empty?" I asked, "why was it empty?"
The brother paused for a long moment before he spoke: "Well, my sister was slow ..."
"Slow?" I asked.
"Slow," he repeated, "as in handicapped."
"Handicapped?" I asked.
"Yeah, handicapped ..." he looked at his mother again ... Then came the R-word ... "My sister was what we used to call Retarded ..."
"Down's Syndrome?" I asked.
"Yeah ..." and then the room fell silent ...
"Hmmm," I said thinking about how to continue this ...

"What did she like to do?" I asked ... it took a few minutes until the answers began to pour forth with much laughter as stories flowed fast and furiously ...
"She loved chocolate," said the mother.
"She loved Christmas," laughed a niece.
"Oh, she really loved presents," said another niece.
"She loved colouring ..." said the first niece.
"Yeah," said the second niece, "and we ALWAYS had to colour with her, and she'd have a fit if we didn't stay inside the lines ..."
And together the two grown nieces laughed uproariously ... and continued to share memories of colouring with their Auntie, even as adults.

"She liked flowers," said the sister in law.
"Yeah," agreed the mother, "and going past a flower garden could take hours because she had to smell every single flower ..."

And for an hour a life was recalled ... colouring, chocolate, hugs, flowers, presents, balloons, Christmas, Birthdays ... the list got longer and longer of things Auntie liked to do ... then the mother said sadly - "when she was born, I was told to put her in an institution and forget about her, but I just couldn't ..."

I heard her pain ... and I saw the deep regret etched in her eyes ... and she continued, "I don't know if she had much of a life ..."

A couple of days later I stood before the family and their circle of friends and we celebrated the life of a simple woman who inspite of her handicaps, filled the life of her family with wondrous moments and memories ...

I asked the simple question - "couldn't she be showing us the way to a kinder, gentler world? What if all of us followed her example and took time to colour? What if we took time to stop and smell the flowers more? What if we gave each other presents more often? What if we enjoyed chocolate more? What if we made huge fusses over Birthdays and Christmases? What if we spent more time enjoying balloons?"

I then spoke the dreaded R-word ... "some would call her retarded because she lived with Down's Syndrome, but perhaps there is a lesson in her life for all of us ... Perhaps she is merely showing US the way to live a meaningful life by taking the time to enjoy the simple things that we leave behind as adults ..." I then challenged those assembled to spend some time honouring her by colouring, savouring chocolate, giving each other hugs and presents and enjoying flowers, balloons and the beauty around us ...

I wondered aloud if perhaps this simple woman was one of life's greatest teachers ...

When the service ended the mother came up to me and with tears in her eyes said: "since she was born I've wondered what kind of life she's had ... today you gave me a gift ... you helped me see my daughter as a gift from God ..." Her thanks brought tears to my eyes ...

So, do you want to help make the world a better place ??
Let's open our eyes to the wonder of life and let's take time to enjoy the simple things ...

Tomorrow I'm buying my very first 64 pack of Crayola Crayons and I'm gonna colour with bold and bright strokes ... it's a good place to start ...

Wanna join me ???

4 comments:

Gord said...

AMen and Amen.

itzktb said...

Dear Reverend Shawn,

Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing and for offering me a message I so needed today. I'm off to buy a box too. I'll join you.

Katie
New York City

Bethany said...

Thank you for this post.

Tai said...

What a lovely story. As you show so beautifully, a human being is the sum of what and who they love, not what they "do." Thank you. I'm off to buy crayons, too!