Ultimate Answer Lies In That ‘Aha Moment’ cover

Ultimate Answer Lies In That ‘Aha Moment’

By


The other day I had a full-blown aha moment – and this one answered one of the greatest mysteries that has followed me for the last 13 or 14 years.
I was raised to believe that things happen for a reason. My mom’s faith was everything to her, and she passed that strength on to her children – which means we may ask why things happen, but we don’t give up hope when we don’t get an answer. We just accept that things were meant to be.
When we got the diagnosis that Matthew would be born with Down syndrome, my husband and I both, naturally, asked why.


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Ultimate Answer Lies In That ‘Aha Moment’

Thank God For Calculators

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about “aha moments.” Believe it or not, there is an entry on the Merriam-Webster website –

“Definition of aha moment: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

There have been plenty of times in my life when my brain clicked with insight, recognition, inspiration, realization and/or comprehension. Those moments never involved numbers.

Security System

Security System

I am hopelessly uninspired, and lack insight, recognition and, mostly, comprehension, when it comes to math. I gave up years ago with that struggle. That’s why God invented calculators and other people who are good at math.

Pieces Coming Together

No, my flirtations with aha moments usually come when I’m watching my preferred old movies, reading Stephen King books or watching/officiating a good basketball game.

Something clicks, and I associate one thing with another, and put some pieces together that, prior, didn’t seem to fit.

But the other day I had a full-blown aha moment – and this one answered one of the greatest mysteries that has followed me for the last 13 or 14 years.

I was raised to believe that things happen for a reason. My mom’s faith was everything to her, and she passed that strength on to her children – which means we may ask why things happen, but we don’t give up hope when we don’t get an answer. We just accept that things were meant to be.

Asking Why

When we got the diagnosis that Matthew would be born with Down syndrome, my husband and I both, naturally, asked why.

Getting news that your child has some type of disability is life-altering and you’re forced to deal with emotions that range from sadness, anger, grief, fear and despair. So I asked why, more times than I could count.

But I knew, even without ever getting an answer, there was a reason why Matthew had that extra chromosome. As the years passed, though, with each achievement, with each smile, with each hug, with each smart-aleck response from this pint-sized teenager, the answer to that question of why has become less important.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Carrying The Torch

But the other day, out of nowhere, perhaps the truest of answers, in its purest form, came running at me – in the form of Robin Roberts carrying the torch for Special Olympics.

I watched her segment on Good Morning America, her admiration for the athletes, and the volunteers and organizers and the global ambassadors, was evident. Tears came to my eyes, because, in many ways, she was talking about my son, and my son’s coaches and all the good people who devote their time to these inspirational athletes.

Coming Together

Coming Together

And that’s when my aha moment hit – if it weren’t for Matthew, would I even care about Special Olympics? Would I even pay attention to this report? Would I even acknowledge that these terrific people exist?

The answer across the board, I thought, was probably not.

2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games Opening Ceremonies

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Reasons

Years ago, I signed up to volunteer at the sectional competition of Special Olympics that’s held every year at Kutztown University, where I was a student.

I didn’t commit to it because I wanted to give of myself and help those less fortunate, I did it because I thought it would be cool to be at school during the summer.

I made my way around the football stadium where most of the competitors had gathered...athletes with Down syndrome, with braces or prosthetics, all types of disabilities, including conjoined twins. Instead of finding the volunteer registration table, I found the nearest exit.

Ashamed

I was ashamed of myself, and felt awful for not giving the event, and the athletes, a chance. But I was also, in my mind, being realistic.

I didn’t belong there. I was too uncomfortable to give anything or anyone a chance.

I was also confused because I thought it would be different – or that I would be different. I wasn’t a stranger to people with disabilities. When I was younger, one of my mom’s best friends had a daughter with cerebral palsy.

Joanne was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to communicate verbally. But she could laugh, and I loved hearing her laugh. It was always my goal, even at 5 or 6 years old, to get her to smile.

Bringing Smiles

Bringing Smiles

The Special Olympics World Winter Games Pyeong Chang 2013

Image by the Republic of Korea

(CC BY 2.0)

Misery

She was my friend, even though she was much older than me.

That version of me, that little girl, hadn’t developed any type of prejudices or fears of people who were different. Because Joanne wasn’t different – I knew her my whole life, so she was part of my world. That’s what the difference was. At least, that’s what I understand now.

I couldn’t understand why I was so uncomfortable at Kutztown, surrounded by people not much different, in many ways, than Joanne. I should have been stronger, more compassionate. Yet I failed miserably.

Aha...

I think back to that day more than I should, or maybe not enough.

What a closed-minded person I was, so uneducated and unwilling to open the door to people with disabilities. It never occurred to me that these athletes had parents who adored them, who admired them, and who wanted for them what all parents want for their children – happiness.

Watching Robin Roberts’ report, I went back to that day at Kutztown, and the aha moment hit me. I realized that because of Matthew, I have witnessed a wealth of remarkable accomplishments, breakthrough achievements, and moments of pride that I never could have imagined.

Witnessing Joy

Witnessing Joy

Mayumi Kudaka runs in the 30-meter dash while participating in the Kadena Special Olympics at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Nov. 6, 2010.

Image By Tech. Sgt. Jason Edwards

defenseimagery.mil

Witnessing True Glory

As a sportswriter, I reported on personal best times and scores for high school and collegiate athletes – even professional and world-class athletes.

I saw teams win championships and coaches take over the top spot in the winning percentage books.

I never witnessed true glory – until Matthew started to participate in Special Olympics.

Not his personal glory – he’s fallen short of gold medals every year in bowling – but the pure glory of competing, and competing well, that these athletes display every time out -- it’s remarkable.

Making It Look Easy

As much as I don’t like soccer (I get why people love the sport, I’m just not one of them) I am in awe when I watch Matthew and his soccer team practice.

I clap, I cheer, well up with admiration for what he and his teammates do. Plus, it’s just pretty cool to watch kids with disabilities push aside -- or completely disregard -- difficulties with such a fierce determination that it looks downright easy.

Which, it isn’t.

Running Ahead

Running Ahead

Members of Detachment 226 from the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and South Dakota law enforcement run with athletes from the South Dakota Special Olympics during the Law Enforcement Torch Run May 17, 2010, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

Image by Joshua J. Seybert, A1C, USAF

Defenseimagery.mil

A New World

Matthew’s existence has afforded me a compassion and a willingness to accept people that I might not have if he wasn’t in my life.

I hope now I see the person first, and the disability last, because that’s how I want people to look at my little boy. He has opened up a world to me that my own discomfort and perhaps even skittishness, might have shut out if he wasn’t born.

An Answer For Now

When that thought crossed my mind, and my heart, it clicked. That was the aha moment.

He’s a teenager – as he reminds every day. And he’s cute – he reminds me of this every day. And I love him more than anything else in this whole, wide, world –I remind him of that every day.

I don’t kid myself – there will be times in the future I’ll ask why he was born with that extra chromosome, particularly when Matthew struggles with something, or is frustrated because he can’t do something that he sees as very simple.

But now, well, I have an (aha) answer.