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Successful people keep their eye on the goal. If they encounter obstacles, instead of focusing on the obstacle, they find a way around it by keeping their goal in mind. It is a mindset of courage which makes it easier to pursue success. (Dr. Anil Kumar Sinha)

Meet Diane Grover, mother of five, a beautiful person inside and out. Diane founded the International Down Syndrome Coalition. She also started the Grand Strand Down Syndrome Society. Now she has created Dreamers Merchants.

This is no ordinary business.

Most employers look at appearances when hiring, even if that bias is subconscious. Somewhere between 17% and 20% of people with disabilities are employed. Diane’s mission is to change that statistic. She does more than hire—she gives these individuals a living wage and recognizes their dignity. In Diane’s blog, Cheerful Persistence, September 2015, she celebrates the definition of dignity.

I applaud people who realize that dignity is innate. It is not the exclusive property of the genius, the wealthy, the gifted, the privileged… In fact, sometimes the educated individual teaches biased info. My friend, Bethany Brianne Hall, helped to clarify some of that misinformation with one of her college professors.

“Genetics and Statistics show that all people with Down syndrome will not attend college. It is nearly impossible for them,” he stated in the context of his lecture.

Bethany did not sit still and fume. She responded with statistics. After class. Bethany was fortunate. Her prof heard her out.

“Do you know who Angela Bachiller is?” she asked. Knowing the question was rhetorical, Bethany continued. “She was the world’s first person with Down syndrome to hold public office. She lives in Spain. Tim Harris owns his own restaurant. And Sujeet Desai, a musician, went to college. He earned a 4.3 average. These are only a few examples.” Bethany suggested that he update his statistics. Perhaps if she had appeared confrontational in front of the other students he may have been defensive. It is hard to say in hindsight.

Then she shared her experience on Facebook. I smiled the width of my face. Perhaps wider. The links in the previous paragraph lead to these persons’ stories. Desai mesmerizes an audience with his music. Tim dances his way to his restaurant. Angela Bachiller’s photo shows a woman either patronized or ignored in public settings. Wrong! She is a public leader and servant.

I smile again now. Diane Grove is destroying the myth that the handicapped are poor workers and less-than individuals.

Di’s youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, has Down syndrome. She calls herself ME. Me! The same pronoun we all use to refer to our inner selves. And that self is incredibly beautiful—no matter how many chromosomes it carries.

Seven of Diane’s Dreamers Merchants stores opened on October 5. There are now eight stores. Freshly ground coffee can be ordered online. A great gift.

“Maybe, just maybe,” Diane says, “the world is hearing us.”

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Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer. (Ed Cunningham) 

My mind is in my usual run-faster-than-the-clock mode even as I browse through Facebook, something I do for relaxation. I see a message from my new friend, Cecelia. How was your day?

I envision my invisible to-do list, the one that doesn’t place chores and goals in tangible order. It lumps them together, landfill style. I frequently need to stop and re-think my next step. Sure, I have occasionally created lists. However, I tend to lose them or leave them on my dresser while I am on some phase of the day’s plans, miles outside the reach of that paper.

Yet, as I read CeCe’s message I smile. My day has been good, touched by both minor accomplishments and everyday blessings.

Our chat begins with ordinary-life talk, slips into the sublime, and picks up laughs along the way. We travel through the past, present, and future. I notice how the lag between each bubble-of-talk creates comical miscommunications, misplaced antecedents, confusing new topics. They can be easily explained, but are nevertheless humorous. I wish that these misunderstandings could be settled as simply in the real world.

Chat is new to me. Sure, I’ve used Messenger on Facebook—for one-time statements. It is simple on the computer because I am familiar with the full-sized keyboard on my laptop. Besides, my cell is a  basic flip-top. No Internet service. As Cecelia and I tap sentence after sentence I ease into a new age. We will meet in person again. Soon. I hope. However, for now the wrinkles around my neck fade and her fresh twenty-seven years move closer to my sixty-eight. She is wise beyond her age. Our spirits understand one another. She is beautiful both inside and out. And I am blessed by her openness.

Seconds advance into minutes… a half hour… I will save some of my impossibly vague list for tomorrow. Other tasks need to be crossed off my invisible agenda today. For example, a shirt left in the dryer for an hour may be wrinkled; overnight the cloth could resemble a salt-dough-map of the Himalayas. Boiling eggs explode to the ceiling when the water in the pot evaporates.  I only needed to do that once to learn not to do it again.

Eventually I write, Good night. Talk to you later.

Then, we chat just a little bit longer, a few extra words, one more shared smile.

Some gifts need to be savored.

how awesome you are

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