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The Importance Of An Open Mind

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The bleak morning of Sunday, October 4th, 2010, found me huddled against my mother's car, the weather far too cold for my sweatshirt and jeans ensemble. A coffee cup, too small to make a dent in my sleep debt, was clutched in my fingers. I was examining the reflection of my criminally bright t-shirt on the side of the car while mentally preparing myself for the event ahead: the Buddy Walk.

Down Syndrome has been a major part of my life since I was two, when my little sister was introduced into a new and hostile world mostly ignorant to her needs. It didn't take me long to morph into the protective, supportive older sister I can still boast today; ever since I can remember I've been supplying words for her when the adults don't understand, adjusting the game so she can play, too, grumbling only a bit when she performs one of her Houdini stunts and disappears from right under our noses. Because of her I've learned to look at the world with new eyes, to take a second glance and really feel something about what I see. Her life is the event that has made me able to say that I am an open-minded person.

The Buddy Walk isn't the only volunteering opportunity I've done this year; one look at my records will confirm that. The reason I chose it to represent what I stand for is because it's so close to my heart. Her life story is tied so inextricably with my belief that any obstacle can be overcome that I wonder sometimes who I'd be if she hadn't been born. When I see someone in a wheelchair, I think of her struggle to control her own muscles. When I see a deaf person, I remember the years of silent communication before she learned to speak. Even when I encounter someone who doesn't know English very well, every single second spent divining my sister's garbled speech comes rushing back. It's because of her I've learned to see disabilities not as limitations, but as challenges. This is true for my everyday life, for hers, and for every other 'insurmountable' problem facing us today.

As I stood with hundreds of other t-shirt clad, smiling supporters of Down Syndrome, I felt that belief grow stronger. Each one of the 'disabled' attendees were happily climbing into the bouncy house, marveling at the shiny red firetruck, singing and laughing and dancing to their favorite song as it blared from the speakers. In every face shined the hope that our race wouldn't be overwhelmed with its limitations, consumed with prejudice and disgust and ignorance. We were standing for a better, more well-informed world that would embrace differences, and I was as glad as any that I was lucky enough to understand the importance of open-mindedness.



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