My brother Dan regularly inspires awe in me. He is a 27-year old man with Down syndrome who lives at home in Philadelphia with my parents. Dan has this tendency to change the lives of those around him without even trying. He’s one of the funniest and wittiest people I know, dangerously charming and full of life. One of the most awe-inspiring things about Dan is his ability to express his emotions without hesitating, and more importantly, without censoring what he is feeling. If he was reading your blog right now and all of the awesome submissions you’ve gotten and posted there, he might be bawling his eyes out. Whereas I sometimes struggle to express emotions when I most need to, it seems Dan has never been afraid to let it all out. Sometimes this is a source of frustration for me, that Dan doesn’t keep the tears from flowing even when someone he barely knows passes away, for example. Living in this city has made me feel as though I need to develop some hard, unbreakable outer shell in order to survive. But I am amazed at Dan’s refusal to compromise what he is feeling, regardless of the time, place, or event to which he is reacting. I’ve learned a great deal from Dan about how to feel, and that’s an awesome thing.
Several years ago Dan and my other brother Will began a documentary project about Dan’s life, focusing primarily on his transition from high school to the work force and adulthood. One scene from the documentary centers around Dan learning about the death of someone he knew and demonstrates how Dan reacts to and copes with such news. The scene does a good job of explaining this awe-inspiring thing about Dan. It’s super embarrassing because in the clip I’m 16 years old and have braces! But I’d like to share it anyway.
(Just FYI, a blog accompanies the film project and is widely read by fans of Dan, friends, parents of children with special needs, and educators and is definitely worth checking out if you’re at all interested in the documentary! dandrinker.com)