My little brother was just named Employee of the Year for all the sheltered workshops in West Virginia. I’m quite proud.
Not just for this one award, but for a lifetime of breaking down barriers and transforming the way people think.
See, Kerry has Down Syndrome.
When he was born in 1968, people didn’t take Down Syndrome kids out in public. Matter of fact, my parents were advised by doctors to put him in a special facility since they said he’d never be able to function in society.
That was the first barrier. My parents broke that one down. Not only did they bring him home, they took him out. Kerry grew up on softball fields, in church, wherever my parents went. And taking a hyperactive Down Syndrome child places isn’t always a picnic.
Throughout his life Kerry has refused to conform to preconceptions. People wanted and expected a quiet, compliant special-needs child. So, when Kerry started elementary school, he spent the first semester in trouble and on suspension. He was suspended frequently his first few months in junior high and in high school for the same reason.
But after a while, people quit expecting him to act like special-needs child and learned to appreciate him as a warm, outgoing person who loves to talk and never forgets anyone’s birthday. (I mean, anyone.)
When he left elementary school, his teachers cried. They did the same when he finished junior high. And when he graduated high school, I cried. Because when he walked across the platform, his senior class gave him a standing ovation.
Then he went to work at the sheltered workshop. Want to guess what happened next? Yep. Suspensions, disciplinary measures, and eventually, acceptance and acclimation. From troubled employee to employee of the year.
Not so much because Kerry changed but because Kerry has this habit of changing people.
(Click here for pictures of my family at the award ceremony.)