A dear friend gave Rachel a wall hanging for her birthday. It quotes Joshua 1:9.
I know that verse but hadn’t thought of it much until the gift. As I kept seeing it, I realized that God intended the gift more as a reminder for me. I realized that this is our verse to claim as our guiding principle for these next four years. I even wrote it on Rachel’s dry erase board on her door. So today as she starts this endeavor called high school, I have a little letter to her. I’m inviting you to read it.
I imagine that 15 years ago today we were at Special Kids and Families with the other Ben’s Angels. We were all learning together then and we’ve been learning ever since. Your friends Ben, Leigh and Brooke still live in Tennessee and they started high school last week. I want you to grow up. I want you to achieve your dreams even if that is a pink house in New York City. I just didn’t know that 15 years would pass so fast.
So today as you go out the door, I am going to remind you of the words of Joshua that I’ve been quoting a lot lately. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I know you are excited about high school, but like everyone else you are a little nervous too. You are one of the most courageous people I have ever known. When your brain is full, you go on. When you have a hard time understanding what the teachers or friends are talking about, you continue to listen and take notes. You look up directions on your iPad and show your daddy and me. Unlike me, you even read the directions on games and apps. This summer you have told me that having Down syndrome is hard. You tell me that if you didn’t have Down syndrome, people could understand what you say better. Still, you keep on going.
The book of lists says that the number one fear of American adults is public speaking. Yet, you get up in front of people and dance, sing and speak. You have introduced Senators and Congressman. You led the pledge for the Governor this summer. They didn’t want you to be overwhelmed but no worries. You could have run the show. You have spoken to hundreds of people about Down syndrome. Your stint in Just Like You Down Syndrome has made you kind of famous. Even people waiting in line for the lady’s room recognize you! I know you will do your very best in high school, and you will have an awesome experience.
Now, I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m more than a little nervous today. I’m scared. I’m really having to cling to that verse. I’m not scared about you though. I know you will be strong and courageous and do your very best. I’m scared that others won’t do their part. There you have it, Rachel. I have done my very best to be sure that everything is in place for you to have a good transition to high school, but I am not confident that everyone else will do their part. I have insisted that you be kept in general education classes in spite of being reminded that almost no one else with Down syndrome has done this. I have provided videos and books. We have had meetings – lots of meetings. We have tried to put it all in place. I like to control everything in my environment and God likes to remind me that isn’t going to happen.
You have a good and kind heart. You are a romanticist and you are fiercely loyal to your friends. You have a strong moral compass and think everyone else should and does. Because you have a kind heart and loyal nature, you believe all people to be kind and loyal, too. I am scared that some of those other 2,149 students at your school will use those great character traits to tease you or hurt you. Statistics say that about 70% of young ladies with intellectual disabilities are sexually abused in some way. I want you to be the 30%.
When you were six years old, you auditioned for your first play, Pinocchio. You were cast and were the most precious Magical Baby Doll ever.
That day God taught me to never let my fears stop you from doing what you need to do or what He needs you to do. I didn’t turn around and go home. The rest is history as your great love is, hands down, the stage. And you do light up a stage. And you will light up Olathe South!
So now you go on and tackle a new group of people destined to become Friends of Rachel. Show them the possibilities by showing them your abilities. Show them that it is not because the law says so but because it is so you belong with everyone else. And always remember that no matter what, I love you. I am here for you. I will always be your greatest fan and cheerleader. This is the Great Adventure!