Your Humanness is Showing

This week’s story is from Joe Landfair, one of my dad’s buddies. From the moment Joe met Aaron, he treated him as the human being he is and with the utmost respect. He recognized Aaron’s humanness over any other label placed upon him. He placed Aaron’s humanness at the forefront of their relationship. Therefore, he is a rockstar in my eyes – we need more people like this!

I emailed Joe inquiring about his interest in sharing about seeing the similarities over the differences. Within 24 hours he responded with a heartfelt story that brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy, because his memory embodies what we all can only hope for – our humanness recognized.

It is a great pleasure to introduce, Joe.

“I think the thing I would say I’ve seen from Aaron is how much he enjoys just being part of the group.  Whether we’re playing a game or just hanging out, I perceived a desire in Aaron to be around others, interact and feel loved.  I remember playing bocci ball in your front yard with Aaron and some people from work.  Aaron was doing really well, he has great hand eye coordination.  I could also see he was really competitive.  As he had success in the game, we cheered him on and congratulated him on his good play.  I sensed in him, a true satisfaction from this and a sense of pride.  He enjoyed being part of the group,  competing in the game and doing it well.

I think, we all as human beings, want to accomplish things and be recognized for that.  In that way, Aaron is no different from anyone.  We all want to feel included, to belong and have that sense of self-worth.  I felt Aaron really enjoyed those moments and it was great to see him smile.  He reminded me that regardless of the various gifts and abilities we each have, we are all human beings with common wants and needs.  From this, I think Aaron taught me to be a little more sensitive to those needs in others whether different or similar.  I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to know Aaron”.

Thank you Joe for your willingness to share such a beautiful memory. I certainly agree with you, Aaron has taught me the exact same thing. Thank you for so graciously reminding us of that. Thank you for reminding us when our humanness shows it’s just our desire to belong, to feel included.

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

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

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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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The Hi Game

Hi Hi Hi!

I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend…Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to the brave men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom.

 

I have something special for all of you this week, it is something that is very near and dear to my heart. Drumroll please… it is the “Hi Game”!!!!! It is a game that Aaron always encouraged us to play as kids and continues to encourage us to play as we become real life adults. This game will seem silly maybe even trivial, but I believe with every bone in my body it has the power to change the world.

 

The “Hi Game” is quite simple, I promise.

 

This game only requires one player (that’s right, it is something you can play on your own!) I encourage playing with another person to develop a friendly competition, its healthy competition if its for the greater good, right?
There are two rules to play… 1.) you must smile with all of your might and 2.) try your best to say “hi” to as many people as possible. See? I told you! Super simple.

 

As a tween I found this game mortifying, I felt socially awkward and now my brother is asking me to say hi to several strangers? That would require people seeing I had braces, an adolescent breakout, and stuttered when nervous… (Aaron often whipped this game out of his back pocket in heavily populated areas, i.e., airports, weddings, restaurants, jam-packed elevators, and/or sporting events). This game was so much bigger than I had the capacity to understand at the time. However, I knew it was something special because every single stranger [typically] had a huge smile on their face following Aaron’s abrupt “hi, hi, hi”!

 

Don’t get me wrong, there was the occasional individual who would be totally spooked following the loud HI! Ultimately, they would give a chuckle, smile, and be on their merry way.

 

Reflecting on these experiences forces me to believe that the simple “hi” had the ability to change the course of someone’s day, for a brief moment in time they were seen, they were connected.  After all, isn’t that what we are all searching for in this world, connection?

 

Today, in my eyes, The Hi Game is beyond BRILLIANT! It is so very simple yet has the ability to change the world. I find myself “playing” this game all of the time, I try my best to say hi to anyone I cross paths with throughout the day. Sometimes the response is a tilted head of confusion… a look of did you just speak to me? More often then not it is greeted with a warm smile and a hi in return.

 

We live in a world where we are locked to our screens, counting likes, photo-shopping a flyaway hair, or just escaping reality… (Disclosure: I am guilty of this too) What if we all took the opportunity to play this game, just for today? I imagine this world would feel far more inclusive and connected. For the next twenty four hours I encourage you to embody all that is the hi game. Say “hi” to the barista who is brewing up your favorite coffee, your Uber driver, the person you sit next to on your morning commute… I think you get the point, say hi to everyone!

 

I would love to hear how this challenge goes for each and every one of you.

 

Head over to the Facebook page to share about your experience at The Heart Ability or Instagram @theheartability.

 

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

 

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“Normal is a Dryer Setting”

Hi!! My name is Andie!

I created this blog to share all of the beautiful lessons that I have learned from my brother Aaron’s extra chromosome. Because let me tell ya, that extra chromosome is jam packed with infinite wisdom. Aaron has Down Syndrome, simply put, he has an extra of chromosome 21. Some may view this as a disability but our family has seen nothing but infinite abilities packed into that chromosome.

This blog is something I have been sitting on, debating whether or not I have the ability to authentically spread such powerful messages. As Aaron would say, this feels like a “rhinoceros ” pressure. (AKA… HUGE!) However, it is a pressure I am so willing to take on because it would be selfish to keep these lessons to myself.

My hope is that the lessons and stories will bring a smile to your face and will light your heart on fire as they have mine. My greatest hope is that these lessons and stories will be shared to all that may benefit from a daily dose of authenticity.

It is my intention to share the light with you that he so graciously shares with me.

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