Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Guest Post: Amanda Gain of Best Buddies

Comfort is such an abstract idea that most of us assume we have the right to to feel and live in. One could say that the majority of people, especially in this country, choose the extent to which they live in comfort. The phrase "step out of your comfort zone" implies that there was some sort of comfort already in existence. So, I comfortably sailed through my high school years without having to acknowledge the group of students who seemed so incredibly different from me behind those closed doors. How was I supposed to know how to act around them? Were they fragile? Even if I wanted to offer my friendship, could they accept it? With so many unanswered questions, I just shoved the issue down deep into the back of my mind, thinking that I'd probably never need to interact with someone with a disability because it just wasn't my "thing".
Hindsight is everything. Some of the most important people in my life now are those with Down syndrome or autism. When I'm not feeling well or I just need someone to talk to, I know I can get on a bus and 10 minutes later, I can lose myself in the unlimited happiness and unconditional love of my friends at Misericordia Heart of Mercy. How did my attitude change so quickly? Experience is everything, and when I experienced my first year in the international non-profit organization, Best Buddies, everything about my life changed.
Best Buddies mission is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All over the world, high school and college students, as well as other community members are exposed to the miraculous gift of befriending someone who's been left behind by the rest of our society. The goal of the organization is to create a world where Best Buddies does not need to exist. Ignorance is the downfall of our nation and by spreading the mission of Best Buddies, we eliminate some of the fear and hostility that comes along with the unknown.
Technology is allowing parents to have an estimate of the likelihood that their child will have a disability. I guarantee that if any of these parents could interact with a single person that I get to interact with at our events for Best Buddies, there would never even be the slightest thought of not continuing with the pregnancy. The r-word would not exist if someone who uses it regularly sat down and played a game or watched a movie with my buddy. I can't imagine my life without Best Buddies, nor can I imagine it without the presence of some of the most unique, gifted people in the world. Seeing someone for their abilities, rather than their disabilities is what Best Buddies offers, and it is what everyone deserves.

For more blog posts on Best Buddies, please visit www.bestbuddiesluc.org/blog.
In friendship,
Amanda Gain
Vice President, Membership
Loyola University Chicago
Thank you Amanda, for a thought provoking, heartfelt post. I am convinced that whoever goes outside their comfort zone and gets to know a special needs person will be rewarded beyond their expectations. Thank you, Amanda and all those who participate in Best Buddies, for making the world a more accepting place for individuals like my Christina.

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1 comment:

Monica Rafie said...

That restores my confidence in my alma mater! Very nice.