The Untold Story of Thanksgiving

The Untold Story of Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving, I shared a story about how special Thanksgiving is in our home along with how Aaron brings that sparkle of gratitude into his everyday living.

However, something was left out. Not intentionally, it came about during the evening of Thanksgiving. More specifically, over the dinner, the importance of that will be clear momentarily.

As the most scrumptious dinner came to a close (shout out to momma Trofholz for whipping up her 33rd Thanksgiving dinner) things got heated quicker than the pumpkin pie in the oven. We had just finished going around the table expressing something we are grateful for, the theme appeared to be the recognition of what an absolute privilege it is to be near loved ones. The discussion of gratitude seemed to drift as we talked about the possibility of Aaron having a “man cave” on the first floor and how absolutely cool that would be.

Brief background of the significance of this discussion… My parents and Aaron moved back to Lake Bluff from Ann Arbor earlier this year. Aaron quickly claimed the front living room as his; it was not long before his Queen cassette tapes, old socks, and q-tips covered every square inch of the room. This is the room that greets everyone as they enter the home. You may think this is to everyone’s dismay, but this is our normal – this is life with that extra chromosome. We all (mostly my parents) all drop subtle hints about how cool it would be for him to move his stuff to the “man cave”. The designated “man cave” is a room off the entryway that has an awesome fireplace and most importantly doors, to close away the organized chaos. You see, that extra chromosome of Aaron’s encourages his mind to engage with his world in a structured chaos. It does not make sense to us, but it makes sense to him (Don’t even think about moving that Queen tape or sock even an inch-because I promise you, he will notice). So the hope for the past 5 months has been to help Aaron transition to the “man cave”.

Back to that dinner… as we all encouraged Aaron to move his stuff over because it’d be WAY cool for him, something was activated in him. He launched his dinner plate across the table nearly whipping Mary Kate in the head (and by plate I mean mom’s antique Christmas China). Miraculously, the plate was not harmed in the process.

(Enter a moment mixed with shock and chaos)

Aaron jumped up, hollered, “I am mad” and stormed away. This is not the first time this has happened, therefore over the years we have learned to let him walk away – he needs that autonomy. Much like you and I, when we are angry or upset, the last thing we want is someone telling us how to express our feelings. So, imagine how even more complex that is for an individual who does not necessarily have the words to match his emotions.

About 5 minutes passed and when the shock of it all faded, Matt, Mary Kate, and myself proceeded to find him in “his” living room. We sat down with him and we asked Alexa to play the Home Alone soundtrack. We just sat there in a brief silence followed by bursts of laughter. This is what Aaron has taught us, the power of love. This time of year can be stressful for a lot of people – disability or not. It’s hard to find the words to articulate how we are feeling all of the time, so naturally we become activated. But, the solution is how quick do we rebound? Aaron taught us the power in quick rebounds and the importance of never fostering resentment.

The ability to rebound after a not so ideal moment reinforces our humanness.

As siblings of Aaron we learned to love unconditionally… and boy, do we love hard. If this Thanksgiving taught me anything, it taught me the indescribable value of forgiveness and that it is inevitable through connecting with those around us while rebounding into love.

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

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If you or someone you know has an experience to share about seeing the similarities over the differences please contact me at theheartability@gmail.com

 

Thanksgiving

GRATITUDE.

A feeling so many of us become overfilled with on this special Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude is not just the word we see thrown all over social media, it is the feeling we experience when we’re connected with love.

Today and everyday is Thanksgiving in Aaron’s heart. He does not necessarily express it with words and catchy phrases, he lives in it with every fiber of his beautiful being.

As long as I have known Aaron (my whole life) he has been an extremely picky eater. He sticks to what he likes and that is a cheeseburger (well done with ketchup only) and fries. So, needless to say, he does not indulge in mom’s extraordinary feast every year on the 4th Thursday of November.

However, to feel “a part of”, he will eat a minuscule piece of turkey doused in ketchup. The piece is more often than not the size of his pinky finger nail. He definitely does this with much hesitation while we all sit at the table chanting “Aaron versus food.” He smiles with excitement let’s out his famous “mang” and throws his arms up in celebration (often while pretending to gag).

While his commitment to feeling a part of is ever so inspiring, I am amazed by his ability to be thankful not only on this day but everyday.

He recognizes on a daily basis all that is to be thankful for in his world. His gratitude is not found through material objects he has acquired, rather it is found in the connection he finds in his relationships. For example, his family, during the holiday season he avoids judgment and criticism by embracing love and acceptance.

A family tradition in our household is to go around the table and share what brings us gratitude. Every single year Aaron says the same thing, “the whole entire 6 of us.” Not the food on the table, the new iPad case, nor the new shampoo he was told not to get. He focuses on his family and friends who are near and far. He expresses interest in what others are doing, simply because he cares. He is not asking to make conversation, however he is asking because he genuinely cares to know if everyone is feeling as much love as he is in that moment. The appreciation for those relationships is infectious and certainly has a ripple effect on the rest of us.

Happy Thanksgiving from me to you!

May your bellies be as full of gratitude as they are good food.

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

If you or someone you know would like to share about your experience seeing the similarities over the differences please contact me at theheartability@gmail.com.

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The Lighthouse

The following post was contributed by Aaron’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary… Or as Aaron so lovingly refers to them as “Uncle Jimmaaaay and Aunt Maryaaaaaay”.  Jim and Mary were so kind to share a recent and favorite memory of Aaron. They so beautifully were able to put words to an experience anyone that knows Aaron has encountered. His ability to draw any and every one near. He is a magnet for love.It is with great pleasure I share with you “The Lighthouse”-We are affectionately known by Aaron and his family as Uncle Jimmeee and Aunt Maryeee.  It is endearing to us since no one else in the entire world has these names!  Aaron himself patented this ‘Special Greeting’  ….. now catching on by other family members who want to be ‘in’ !!

A recent memory of Aaron was at the end of May at our son’s wedding.  Kirk, Cath, & Aaron journeyed from Ann Arbor to Door County, WI.  We remembered their arrival at the Friday night “Meet and Greet”  — Big Smiles that illuminated the Boat House venue, fitting right into the crowd of guests that had gathered.

Aaron is everyone’s “LIGHTHOUSE!” So many friends were greeted by Aaron’s friendly smile and “Hi!”  He sat down next to one of our guests —  and they became BF immediately!!

Celebrating the wedding the next day, Aaron looked forward to the various events.  He chose a “Purple shirt and a New tie.”  Kirk, Cath, and Aaron were seated at our table during the Reception.  He loved his favorite meal – CHEESEBURGER & FRIES.

He was loving it — all smiles, happy, and content!When the music started we all watched Aaron out on the dance floor surrounded by many different guests — enjoying the moments, the times, having such fun listening and dancing to the rhythm of the music. So many of the guests were drawn to this Special Young Man — full attention to his surroundings and full of spirit!  Aaron fit into our group, graciously enjoying every moment of the wedding that weekend.

Aaron uses his senses of sight, hearing, smell, tasting, and touching!  He looks beyond the everyday “Big” things to find the simple joy and love which brings everyone closer to each other…..connecting is the key.  Aaron’s smile and spirit is his ability for us to learn and put into practice the simple things in our everyday lives. Because we cannot see ‘spirit’ it is easy to forget about it or assign no value to it.  Soul is the eternal part of a being.  Aaron is a pure Master of his Spirit.

We are Blessed to have Aaron in our extended family.  

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May this piece serve as an inspiration for you to BE The Lighthouse.

A major thank you to Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary for sharing their experience with recognizing the ability over disability. WE are so blessed to have you all in our family.

If you would like to share about your experiences with seeing the similarities over the difference OR the abilities over the disabilities please contact me at theheartability@gmail.com – it would be a privilege to share!

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From us, to you.

TODAY IS AARON’S BIRTHDAY!

Rather than attempt to narrow down a single ability he has taught the world over his lifetime, I have asked the people who know him best to contribute to a special birthday post.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how do you measure the emotions behind this picture?

The picture above has always been one of our family’s favorites. Is it humanly possible to look at this picture and not smile? Almost impossible not to catch the infectious joy this picture radiates… I mean seriously look at that precious little smile alongside those eyes full of hope.

Today, Aaron turns 33. This picture always seems to surface every year on October 17. It was taken on his first birthday, October 17, 1985. This year I asked my parents to reflect on what they learned during Aaron’s first year of life and my siblings what they learned over their lifetime. I gave them all about a week to ponder this broad and tough question before I bombarded them over fajitas with, “so…. what’d ya learn?” The response was unanimous.

My mom and dad stated so matter of fact, “celebrate things as they happen and don’t create expectations that are unrealistic.”

How is this related to the above picture? Spoiler, my mom and dad had to place a brick behind Aaron in order for him to sit upright in the picture. Unlike his peers, he was not able to do so on his own. However, they were not going to miss the opportunity to provide the little guy with the opportunity to celebrate all that makes him Aaron. They learned in that first year that life would not always provide Aaron with a brick to prop him up and that is A-OKAY! It was time to begin celebrating all that makes him unique, all that makes him sparkle, and all that makes him able to change the lives of every soul he encounters.

My dad stressed the importance of celebrating all of the victories, big and small “…every milestone was special regardless of what and when it was.” Removing the unrealistic expectations allowed them not to miss the opportunity to witness the beauty that is his life.

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Now let’s bring on the siblings…

First up, the first of us to meet Aaron… Matt!

“… I always remember coming home from college and Aaron being at the airport always so excited to see me and have ‘the whole 6 of us’ together and that it has really made me appreciate how much we love our family and close friends…how we all accept each other and are happy to be in each other’s company…specifically, the first Labor Day I ever came home from college. He was so excited and I was so excited to see him. But then it became every time I came home”

…Amen Mattie, Amen.

Next up, the baby of the family, Mary Kate. The 14 lessons she has learned from Aaron are worth taking note of, that is a promise.

  • always laughs no matter what the situation is
  • ask mindless questions when you feel like in you’re in an uncomfortable situation
  • always do what you want to do
  • the little things in life are what matter… such as going for a car ride around the block listening to Home Alone and getting a coke
  • screaming at the top of our lungs to Free Fallin by Tom Petty can instantly put you in a good mood
  • making funny and weird gestures to each other in public
  • not caring what anyone thinks of you
  • living every moment to the fullest
  • having the worst day ever and a target trip turns the day around
  • shaking your butt in public is always acceptable
  • always answer a FaceTime call from him because you’re guaranteed to smile
  • never make a promise you can’t keep/be held accountable
  • never turn down a late night cruise
  • always say yes to a sleepover even if that means sharing a bed with Aaron and 2 dogs

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Next, my mom’s take on Aaron’s emotional response to “Happy Birthday.”

Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Dearest Aaron!
Happy Birthday to You!

Aaron is so moved by the song “happy birthday.” His eyes well up with tears and he grabs his heart ever so intently. Mom believes this is due the humility Aaron practices in his day to day life. She said, “…the man does not lack self-esteem, that is for sure, but he does not necessarily see how extremely special or his direct impact on the world around him.” She believes that on October 17, specifically in that moment when we all sing to him, he feels it and he feels it deeply.

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Lastly, let’s wrap this up with an open letter from me to dude.

Dear Aaron,

Although I have only known you for 26 years of your life, it feels like I have known you an eternity. God had BIG plans when he placed you on this earth 33 years ago. You light up every room you walk in, not in the cliche way. In the way that truly no words can describe. Being your little sister is my greatest privilege. I cannot begin to comprehend a life that did not include you. Your kindness is something few words can describe, it is limitless and it is available to all. You have taught me that it is our differences that make us unique. It is by truly embracing everyone and everything that we live and grow. Your kindness is something few words can describe, it is limitless and it is available to all. It blows my mind that you believe whole heartedly your entire family has Down Syndrome. You choose not to see the label of Down Syndrome that was placed upon you 33 years ago as a disability. You embrace all of the infinite abilities jam-packed into that extra chromosome. It is ever so clear that you see it as a uniting factor that has the ability to change this world… and I am with you buddy! Our family would never have been the same without you. This world would never have been the same without you. You are a gift beyond measure. Through you I see Love has no expiration tag, no judgement, you have taught me that love is the purest form of joy. I thank you, from the most sincere part of my heart for continually challenging my limiting beliefs, because of you my world is much greater. Because of you my heart knows love unlike any other.

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Love, Andie

If you made it to this point… thank you! Thank you for joining us on this journey of reflection on why our lives are infinitely better because of October 17, 1984.

Aaron, We Love You.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AARON!!!

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It’s Ok Not To Be Ok!

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“People with Down Syndrome are Always Happy”.

Wouldn’t that be wild if that were the case? Individuals with Down Syndrome are not always happy. (insert gasp) really?? Try to take a guess as to why this is not true, go ahead I dare ya. This week’s ability is the ability to not be okay.

Why aren’t people with Down Syndrome always happy? Because… they are HUMAN! That’s right, you heard me. They are human beings, just like you. Don’t get me wrong, Aaron is fairly happy 99.9% of the time, however there are moments where his humanness rears its gorgeous head. I think this is a pressure so many of us face, or at least I do. This pressure to always be “great!” can be quite exhausting. I don’t necessarily believe this is a pressure from the outside world, rather it is a pressure that comes from within. If we are honest, how will people react? Will they still be our friends? Will they still pick up our calls? Vulnerability is one of the scariest mountains to climb however the reward is something few words can describe. Through vulnerability comes connection. When we can share that what is most “shameful” or “embarrassing” we provide others the opportunity to recognize they are not tackling this life alone.

The reality is, everything is not “okay” all of the time 24 hours 7 days a week. If everything was okay all of the time, we would be robots… and even robots malfunction. There is a beauty few words can describe when Aaron faces a mountain that seems to steep and overcomes through willingness to be vulnerable about the climb.

Recently, Aaron was experiencing severe pain. A pain that was challenging for him to find the words to articulate the discomfort. He voiced frustration, disappointment and straight up anger… and it was absolutely breath taking. Please don’t get me wrong, I would never in a million years wish to see him in pain. However, seeing his ability to scream it out and express the most raw of feelings was extraordinary. It reminded me that sometimes life throws us hard balls (insert a lets make lemonade out of lemons quote) but really, life can be tough but that does not mean we have to be the world’s toughest warrior. Strength comes when we can admit feelings of defeat and open our hearts to the possibility of help through vulnerability and connection.

Sure, most of the time you see someone with Down Syndrome they may be happy. However, I believe this is due to the deeply embedded ability to make everyone’s life better by simply being in it… that will have to be another post. Until then, get out there and see the similarities over the disabilities.

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

If you or someone you know has a story they would like to share about their experiences, please contact theheartability@gmail.com

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Don’t Should All Over Yourself

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I have never once heard Aaron say, “oh man, I should have done XYZ” OR “I could have done XYZ better”.

The man has the most beautiful confidence, not the egotistical type of confidence. The confidence that stems from faith in his abilities and his choices. I have never witnessed the man live in fear or doubt.

This is one of his abilities that I struggle to understand. I am sure I am not alone on this one… We hear all too often in the workplace, the home, and schools “I should have studied more, I should have talked about that in my interview, or I should be a better person”. My question is, who in the world was the one to set the bar for these “shoulds”??? I go back and forth on this one. Is this a societal issue? The weight of the world? OR are these “shoulds” an internal pressure we place upon ourselves to obtain expectations we wouldn’t even put on our worst enemy.

If we eliminate the words shoulda, woulda, coulda from our vocabulary what would we be left with?

Drumroll please…

We would be left with DO!!!

That’s right, DO! Maybe Nike was on to something with “Just Do It”.

Every single day, Aaron lives in the DO. I am not sure I buy that this is a conscious decision he makes every morning upon awakening, I think the ability to DO is intertwined into every fiber of his being.

Now, sometimes this can be frustrating to the outside world (myself included) when Aaron just wants to DO DO DO. For example, “lets go get a coke at McDonald’s” or “lets go to party city”. Those are the types of “DO” that can ultimately be frustrating…especially after you just went to the gas station to bring him a coke or you went to party city yesterday (and the day before) and no they still do not sell the green clacker he is tirelessly searching for.

The DO I find infectious is his natural born talent to DO kind things, DO loving things, and DO the next right thing. This is what I like to call his internal DO. Contrary to the external DOs these do not include running around searching for tangible items that have not been made since 1999. These are the DOs that can change the world.

There is not a should, could, or would in Aaron’s vocabulary. He simply does. He gives life his all with zero expectations and zero regrets. He trusts that what he does is enough, because for him it is.

This is possible because he denies the pressure of outside expectations. He declines the internal dialogue so many of us are plagued with that becomes all too consuming with self-doubt. He trusts that all mighty gut of his and simply does the next right thing.

When we eliminate “should” from our internal dialogue we have the ability to view ourselves and in turn others through the lenses of love.

Now please, don’t should all over yourself this weekend. Get out there and DO.

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

If you or someone you know would like to share their experiences about seeing the similarities over the differences please contact theheartability@gmail.com 🙂

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The Unconditional Heart

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Aaron’s impact on this world seizes to amaze me. Upon reading what I am about to share with you all, I was immediately covered in goosebumps and moved to tears . Joy “Lynette” Gibson is one of my mother’s dear friends who without a doubt has struck up a special bond with Aaron. They immediately clicked… it has been an absolute privilege to see and hear the way he has impacted her life.

Without further delay, please enjoy “The Unconditional Heart” written by Joy “Lynette” Gibson. 

When I first met Aaron 14 years ago, he offered me a beer at 2:00 in the afternoon. No one was home, I had stopped by unannounced … and he cordially invited me in. I did not hesitate and felt very welcomed, I did not take the beer, however I enjoyed my initial visit with this extraordinary young man. Not only did I not feel different but on the contrary, felt as if someone who did not know me (yet) let me come into a world so pure, natural, and similar … that I would only gain the ability to grow & learn from this new found friendship. And so, our story starts ……

I have been told by many that I am the “dog whisperer”.  No, Aaron is. Because, similar hearts find each other.   Certainly understand each other.   I have witnessed on many occasions this uncanny relationship between Aaron and dogs. As if they “get” him, he “gets” them. They both sense this similarity. No, I am not comparing Aaron to a dog. By any means. He is smarter. And certainly more clever and funnier! The idea that this unconditional yearning for acceptance and love just comes naturally. As it “should”.   however ….

I see more than often, people do not like to feel different. It makes them uncomfortable. So, trying to connect with the special needs person just makes them “ stand out”. At least in their minds. They don’t like it.  I however, see the need to connect with this “difference” because by finding the similarities, I will benefit from this humble relationship – and I’ve been fortunate to have had this for many years in knowing Aaron.  He has taught me to accept us as being similar. He doesn’t feel that we are different.   I have never treated him “special” – if anything he treats me special. He makes me feel needed and wanted. He does this, without any preparation, or pre-anticipated actions. He just does,  “it”!

I have conversations with Aaron that are so real and to the point.  One thing that Aaron says and does.. Automatically, is question “right back at me” … what I just asked him. And then, he comes up with, “so when are you coming to visit” or “how is Ben and Quinn” or “don’t come and visit” and “the hell with Ben and Quinn” God love him.  In that small window …. I smile (usually a lot) and my heart is filled with this momentary gratefulness of knowing this unconditional heart and soul that I know, deep deep in my heart, that he loves me, and cares about me. For real!  Aaron probably doesn’t really know why he loves me. But, one thing he does know, is that he does. Because he feels it. And he really doesn’t care how and why.  Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we all could take this ability to love and care unconditionally – value it and use it in our daily lives.  And not “dissect” every little word and emotion. – Well, in reality, this will never happen.

We know that “this” ability may not always work for everyone, but, if we could all try and find an Aaron in our life, whether it’s a person, a dream, a talent, a pet….  we can all grow and benefit from being open to this similarity (at least the curiosity) that man kind needs and would benefit from.

Aaron has personally brought me “joy” of acceptance. I couldn’t be more grateful to know him and to continue to grow with him. We are the same. And I am proud to say that.

– joy “lynette” gibson

Thank You, Joy “Lynette” Gibson for sharing your heart’s ability to see the similarities over the differences. 

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability. 

“To be brave is to love someone unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.” – Madonna

If you have a story you wish to share about YOUR experience with seeing the similarities over the differences please contact: theheartability@gmail.com

 

 

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within”

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Have you ever met someone that is literally glowing? Someone who looks like they bathe in all that is sparkles and glitter? For me, this person is Aaron. The man is literally a ray of sunshine, always beaming light to anyone who has the privilege of being graced by his presence. He 100% lights up any room he walks into and you cannot help but light up through his infectious joy.

Sure… sometimes it rains in the world of Aaron, but the sun still shines. You know exactly what I’m talking about, that perfect summer down pour on a perfectly sunny day. It never seems to make sense yet you can’t take your eyes off the phenomena. Aaron is that phenomena, he continues to shine in the darkest of storms.

I have always been super curious as to how this is humanely possible. How can one not be affected by the troubles of the world? How does one shield off other’s negativity? I decided to take some time to reflect on how Aaron shines from within, I found that there are a few things that he does consistently in order to maintain the strength of his light.

Here are a few of the things that I found Aaron does on a daily basis:

1.) Appreciate any and everything that brings you joy. No, Aaron is not sitting down nightly writing out a gratitude list or even taking the time to consciously reflect on it before he retires at night. (If you have the discipline for that practice, more power to ya!) He is living in the appreciation for all that brings him joy in every single moment. This is something attainable to us all, living each and every moment with the appreciation of all that is going well for us. Focusing on what we have rather than what we do not have.

2.) Connection – All day, every day, Aaron is constantly looking to connect with family and friends. He texts/calls/facetimes every member of our immediate family at least once a day (sometimes every hour on the hour).

3.) “Aaron Time”, while he loves to connect with everyone he adores, he also does not underestimate the value in some solid “me time”. He can listen to his gut when it is telling him to step away and take a moment to himself. Daily, he takes the time to recharge his battery by doing something he enjoys in solidarity.

4.) Follows a healthy routine: of course, with a little spontaneity here and there. He does the same thing day in and day out. This removes any opportunity for the unknown, which is super scary for all of us!

5.) Lastly and debatably most importantly, Aaron’s joy for life is driven internally. While the external pleasures of the world are always a much welcomed bonus, he lights up the brightest when he feels joy, peace, connection, love, and much much more.

While I do not know nor will I ever know what it is truly like to be in the mind of Aaron, I can take solace in the fact that through being in his presence I am exposed to something miraculous. I am exposed to the power of gratitude, connection, self-care, routine, and internal happiness. I will never know which one of these is the “magic key” to shining from within. However, I can find comfort in knowing that if I just try my very best to practice all five of these things I have a shot at glowing like the dude.

Sounds simple enough right?

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

The Haircut

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

 

The story that I will be sharing with you this week comes from a man named Jack. Jack is a dear family friend who reached out to my father a few weeks ago with a story he felt moved enough to share. Needless to say, I was thrilled, this is exactly what I envisioned when starting The Heart Ability. A platform for any and everyone to share their experiences with Aaronand any human being with extraordinary abilities. I reached out to Jack immediately after I gained the knowledge that he had something he wanted to share. I was met with kindness and compassion from someone who’s life was touched by Aaron. The story brought tears and chills because it reinforced the simple fact that Aaron has SO much to share with this world. Rather than try to put this story into my own words, I have chosen to leave Jack’s email exactly how it arrived in my inbox.

 

Now… let me get out of the way, I present to you, Jack’s Story

 

(The following came directly from Jack)
I have many memories of Aaron, and I always smile when I think of him.

 

One memory has stayed with me … even though it has been more than 10 years ago.
It was late on a Friday afternoon. Your Dad and I were at the office, where we had working together to solve a complicated issue.

 

As we were about to leave, he said that he and Aaron were going to do one of Aaron’s favorite things … get a haircut together.

 

He asked if I’d like to join them. I said, “Yes – that would be fun”.

 

When we arrived, it was a salon, rather than a traditional men’s barber shop.   As the three of us entered, a woman in her mid-twenties greeted Aaron.  He gave her a 1000 watt smile and they were both clearly happy he was there.  He was eager to get started with his haircut, and they had a laughing conversation as she cut his hair.

 

Soon, it was Dad’s turn for a haircut. Aaron came to sit next to me, and was eager to strike up a conversation wth me.

 

I was struck by thedeep spark inside of Aaron to be sociable, and positive, and I loved thegenuineness of his behavior.  Aaron was enthusiastic, living in a moment of happiness, and inviting me to do the same.

 

After a long week of working on knotty problems, I felt like I was being welcomed to the ‘happy, easy, fun place’.  It felt like Aaron’s gift to me.

 

When it was my turn for a haircut, Aaron was excited for me, and told me, “I hope that you like it as much as I do!”  I laughed … I had never seen someone enjoy a haircut as much as Aaron did.  It was contagious.  Living in the moment and savoring it.

 

So, this memory of Aaron reminds me of the joy of finding pleasure in the simple things in life, and living in the moment.

 

Even more, I appreciated the depth of his his desire to connect with others, and how naturally he did so.  I commented to your Dad afterwards that I can see that Aaron is surrounded by a family with a positive, generous spirit – people who love him as he is, and savor sharing a life with him.

 

It was fun to be invited into that experience, too!

 

-Jack L. 2017

 

WOW!!! Anyone else completely moved by Jack’s story? I know I was and still am.

 

This story reminds me of what I love most about Aaron, his ability to find absolute joy in the simple things. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the materialistic things or the troubles of the world. May this be a friendly reminder to pause, take a deep breath, and enjoy the little things in your life. The little things are what ultimately add up to be the big things. The “big things” being the feelings we experience when we are simply living. Recognizing and appreciating the simple things is the recipe for a life worth living. I encourage anyone reading this to find joy in the simple things over the next few days. Maybe take a moment to make a gratitude list, nothing fancy, simply take a mental inventory of all that is good in your life. Share this joy with somebody near or far, just share it. Share the joy for living. It is easy to get wrapped up in the cycle of “when I have this I will be happy or when this happens I will be happy”, what if you knew that everything that could bring you happiness was within reach? Connect with others about life’s simple pleasures. When we choose to share this joy for life with others, we give them permission to do the same. The ripple effect is fantastic. Thank you Jack, from the most sincere part of my heart for your willingness to share your experience.

 

I am looking for anyone who has been directly impacted by the infinite wisdom of an individual with extraordinary abilities. If you have a story you feel called to share please email me at theheartability@gmail.com

 

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability. 
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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Happy Happy Father’s Day to all of the rockstar dads out there.

This week I have something super special for you, I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with my father about his experiences with raising a son with Down Syndrome. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life… we talked all things from fear to inclusion. The energy this man exuded when he spoke of his son was unbelievable and being a witness to that is something I will forever cherish. So it is with great pleasure I take you inside my conversation with Aaron’s dad, Kirk Trofholz.

So let me back up a little and by a little I mean to the year 1984…on October 17, Kirk became a father. (So this is Kirk’s 32nd Father’s Day, you go dad! You’re the real MVP). My mom has said Kirk “took the ball and ran with it” and “he was my rock” when they discovered Aaron had Down Syndrome. She shared that every morningat 6:00 a.m.he would get up to practice Aaron’s therapy exercises with him before work. Eye witnesses report that the two always ended up playing football, in Kirk’s eyes Aaron had every ability to be the next running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Aaron was the first born of four kids, which believe me when I say I know whole heartedly that was God’s timing because our family would never have been the same. Aaron laid the foundation in which my parents learned to parent and it is a fricken miracle! Kirk is the father he is because he embraced with every fiber of his being what it meant to be a parent of a child with extraordinary abilities. This meant that the next three kids were extremely lucky.

Still following? Great… back to present day and my conversation with my dad, Kirk.

Kirk shared a few of his favorite stories about raising Aaron with me, trust me, those will all eventually make it to The Heart Ability. But for today, I want to focus in on the story that still gives me chills, tugs at my heart strings, and gives me all the feels.

Aaron attended pre-school, grade school, middle school, and high school with the “normal” kids. I can presume this was anxiety provoking to parents who feared that their child would not be included and above all that he would be misunderstood. Kirk took these fears into his own hands, put on his shiny #1 Dad cape (okay, not really, but theoretically) and went in to Aaron’s classrooms before the school year began. Each and E V E R Y year he met with Aaron’s soon to be classmates to share one important message, Aaron was a kid just like them. He shared about Down Syndrome in a tangible way to the kiddos who didn’t even know the word chromosome. He shared that this chromosome just makes things a little different for Aaron. He pointed out to the children that they too have different characteristics. For example, different hair color, different eye color, different hobbies, or different heights. He introduced the critical value of appreciating one another’s differences. He helped the kids to understand that they were much more alike than they were different. He told the kids that Aaron will laugh, want to play, and learn just like them. He educated the children by telling them Aaron may take a little longer to express himself with words, but again, he was just like them. He gave the kids a little Q&A time. The kids would ask several questions, for example, “what happens if Aaron swears?” His response… “what happens when you swear?” As Aaron progressed through school the questions soon became, “what is a chromosome?” You betcha Kirk was well prepared to answer these questions.

He shared what an obvious choice this action was for him, he never questioned that it was his responsibility to help others move past the fear of the unknown. He believes in acceptance, inclusion, patience, and love. This was more than evident in our conversation.

I still get chills thinking about this act of love. All he was trying to do was normalize his child’s disability in order to provide acceptance for everything that makes Aaron who he is. He went above and beyond to ensure that his child would be accepted for his infinite abilities. He never faulted the children who did not understand rather he took it upon himself to help them understand.

I believe Aaron said it perfectly when I asked him what his favorite thing about his dad was. He stated very matter of fact, “He’s a good man and he works hard for the family”.

Dad, you are a good man. You have loved and believed in each one of us every single day.

Thank you for showing me what it means to be an extraordinary human being. Thank you for teaching me the most valuable ability of all, to love absolutely unconditionally. Love has zero conditions.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Favorite Father’s Day Quotes

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me.” -Jim Valvano
“My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said, ‘You never known what you can accomplish until you try.'” – Michael Jordan
“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland
“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.” – Anne Geddes

“There’s no shame in fear, my father told me, what matters is how we face it.”

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