My son Chad goes to an after-school teen center on the Naval base where I work. A 16-year-old girl named Amber goes there, as well. She has been in the same daycare/school-age care with Chad since they were preschoolers.
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Amber has Down's Syndrome. Excuse my ignorance when it comes to Down's, but I am assuming there are varying degrees--mild to moderate. I would venture to say Amber's case is moderate. She has a very hard time speaking and expressing herself, and is pretty immature socially. However, she is a beautiful girl in spirit -- so alive and full of life. You can't help but smile when you're around her.
I talked with her a little last week -- after getting the warmest hug, as always -- and found out she's Hannah Montana's #1 fan. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for something next time I went to the store that I could pick up for her. She lives and breathes this stuff!
Last Friday, the teen center got together with the elementary school center to put on their annual end-of-summer talent show. I was a little teary-eyed, thinking how many of these I've sat through and how, before long, my soon-to-be 5th and 9th grader will be all grown up and I won't have any more talent shows to attend. No more conferences, or field trips, or school events. No more needing me like they have for so many years. I had to refocus because thinking like that gets me absolutely nowhere fast! Snap out of it! Live in the moment, Susan, I had to keep reminding myself. And then things quickly changed perspective.
Amber got up on stage. Not meekly or mildly, but with a big, gregarious wave and a larger than life smile, exclaiming, "Thanks, everybody!" I had to wonder if she'd seen Miley Cyrus do that a time or two. Then the music came on -- "The Climb." In case you're not familiar, here are part of the lyrics:
I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"
Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels lost
with no direction
My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments
that I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on
So, not only were the lyrics getting to me, but moreso, the emphasis she put into it. Let's just say Miley ain't got nothin' on her! She sang it with every bit of her heart. For a few minutes on the stage of that teen center, Amber was Hannah Montana.
But what got to me most were the cheers. Hundreds of children filled that center -- some younger, many the same age and older -- but all cheering her on, shouting her name, clapping and hooting and hollering. At times, they were waving their arms high in the air... back and forth, left and right. Every bit of it was sincere and heartfelt. It was as if Miley Cyrus herself were there, rather than a 16-year-old disabled girl who was having a hard time getting many of the words out.
They shouted for her during the entire song, many jumping to their feet for a standing ovation. It was nothing short of beautiful. I sat there unable to do anything but wipe away the flood of tears that was rushing down my cheeks. In those few minutes, I became so proud of those children in that room. I wanted to hug every, single one of them and tell them all how amazing they were, and how much inspiration and hope they gave Amber and, I imagine, everyone who was there that day.
And Amber, it goes without saying, provided even more inspiration and hope.
And that's when I realized... for quite possibly the first time in my life, the whole world just felt right.