Today, I met with an amazing woman by the name of Tara Hinton. We met this morning to discuss an upcoming fundraiser but the conversation to me was way more than just that. Everyday we hear of non profits that help the poor and the less fortunate. We hear of food drives and clothing closets. Diaper drives and toy drives. Yes, I believe that these are all needed and a great value to our city. But what about the "other" forgotten people. The people who have mental disabilities. The people who try to tell us what they need but can't because they just don't know how.
The people that are deemed mentally ill are automatically put into a cage at birth. Most people don't know what to do when they encounter people with down syndrome or autism. They either look at them as if they are in a petting zoo, (Look, but don't touch.) or they run away as if there is something wrong with the "it". The stares are endless and the whispers are hurtful. People who make fun of them are completely out of line. I feel like treating people like this is no different than being racist or sexist. We are against things that we simply don't understand.
Women who are pregnant with children who have down syndrome or birth defects often have to make the decision of whether or not that child should or should not live. It's like an unspoken green mile. The thought of having a child that will struggle the rest of their life is a parents worse fear. Especially, for first time mothers. Most who are put in this situation don't know what to do or which way to turn. The mothers that choose to have those children despite their disabilities are true heroes in my eyes. I would not know what to do if one of my three children was diagnosed with down syndrome. I do know that my life would be completely different.
Mothers of these miraculous children...........I give you the world's largest round of applause................I don't know how I could do it. I have a cousin who was not diagnosed with a mental delay while in his mother's womb, he was diagnosed with it after difficulty during birth. He was constricted in the birth canal and didn't receive enough oxygen. They said that he wasn't going to make it and if he did he would never be able to do what other children could. His mother is one of the best mother's I have ever met. She kept her faith in God and she cared and pushed her son to be great no matter his disability. He is currently working for the Cumberland County School System. This child was not supposed to live this long and currently he is 28 years old.
Now, what about those children and young adults who have no where to go. What about those children whose parents have become too old to care for them? What about those children who have never seen a positive example of love and care? Tara explained to me that The Friendship House is for those very people. Their mission is to give young adults with intellectual developmental disabilities a chance to live on their own. The Friendship House is a transitional living campus in which the students learn to cook, clean, garden and work in order to one day become independent.
I was near tears when Tara told me that there were thoughts of me coming over to volunteer and conduct cooking classes for these amazing young adults. That was a no brainer. Of course I would. :) Sometimes organizations like this don't get a lot of attention because people really just don't understand what it means to live with a learning disability. I wouldn't understand the little that I know if I didn't have family who suffered from these conditions.
Take a minute and look into this great non-profit. The Friendship House is going to make a tremendous difference in the way Fayetteville views mental disabilities. Educating ourselves is key. Thank you Tara for enlightening me. Joanna blessed my life and I had no idea why until now.
Just Lisa :)