We seem to be society that is ‘afflicted’ by the UP Syndrome.
Have you ever noticed how we are almost obsessed with the word UP?
The graphs – productions – career- growth – productivity- always goes UP. Things need to look UP to be better, we have to grow UP – Move UP – Hold UP – Show UP – Take UP – even when we pray , we look UP.
Sometime It splits me up to think that on a circular planet that is always rotating, where really is UP?
Anyway. I digress.
2 weeks ago I was with a friend in Singapore who “accidentally” got called to work with children with Down Syndrome, and she was wondering what might be the purpose of this happening since she has no background in this kind of work.
What was happening..
Many years ago when I worked as a volunteer with NASEOH (National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped), an organization that works for providing equal opportunities for people who are differently abled. I had also worked with Down kids, and still remember the sheer joy of authentic honest uninhibited and innocent conversations. And more importantly what it did for me. I was a hard core Sales person working in the highly competitive IT sector, and didn’t think too much of “soft stuff”.
One of my most memorable conversations was with a young girl, Smita, 17 years old, who would watch me for a few days from a distance. When I went to talk to her, she just got up walked away saying, ‘I don’t feel like talking..’.. no pretences.
A few days later I approached her again, she was fascinated by my dangling earrings. I took them off and offered them to her in the hope of starting a conversation, she took them without too much ado and wore them happily smiled a little (not at me) and .. just got up and went away, leaving me a perplexed.
A few week later, when I was sitting and working, Smita walked up to me quietly…and tentatively kept her hand on my shoulder.
I turned, she was a tall girl and I had to look up. She stood there just looking at me. I didn’t know how to respond given our last couple of encounters. So, I kept silent and didn’t attempt to do anything.
After what seemed like a few long minutes… she smiled and said, ”Ab tum meri dost ho” – hindi for, “Now, you are my friend” – a declaration which filled me with so much pride and feeing of acceptance. These feelings also made me realize how much I had wanted this.
I asked her, if until then, was I not her friend? Without a moment of hesitation she said ‘NO’.
I was silent.
She said she was ‘testing’ me. I said I didn’t understand what that meant.
Pause – She looked like she was remembering.
She said, she wanted to be sure I meant to treat her as an equal. I must admit, I was surprised, to hear her say those things. She suddenly hugged me smiled and left.
When it was over. It was over. The moment was just that much. It made me think of so many instances, in so many relationship where the fear/ greed stretched the ‘moment’ till it died. Unhappy.
This was so real. And Honest.
I sat there thinking about how much this meant to her and me…the trust with which she touched me was so honest … that I remember it in my body.
And I could not help but wonder how many times have I been touched by such honesty in the “Normal” world. Such acceptance, simplicity and openness.
And ‘they’ have a Down syndrome.
Maybe be we have got it topsy-turvy ?
How about we look at the “World” upside down?
Most of the beautiful things come down.. the rain comes down…the fruit falls down…river rushes down… when we show respect we bow down.. we fall in love.. when we feel tender we look down…when we pray we do down …we meditate ..we slow down….
Maybe, we can also get to experience the Authenticity… The honesty.. The Simplicity.. The faith .. The Unconditional Love .. The joy of sharing caring and deep unpretentious connections ??
Studies have also shown, when around a Down Syndrome person, people become more patient.. loving.. slowed down.. empathetic – Authentic.
Few companies who have made it a policy to employ some Down Syndrome employees have reported the overall stress levels gone down, teams becoming more close knit and over all atmosphere of Collaboration and looking out for each other…
And the “Graphs” by the way went up.
Here is a Mckinsey report on the Value of Down syndrome employee to an organization.
It’s time we challenged and reframed our definitions and broadened our views of Up and Down. Maybe then we have a chance to really be connected to ourselves and others.