Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Sisters

Sometimes I can get so caught up in myself that I almost forget or make excuses for not stopping and paying attention.

But this weekend I did.

On Saturday, after eight months of planning, rehearsing, learning, and developing, the 2009 cast of Special Gifts Theatre put on their production of “Cinderella.”

Special Gifts Theatre (or SGT, as its known), is a theatre company for children with special needs in a musical production for the stage.

The childrens needs that range from Downs Syndrome to sensory disorders to Aspergers Disorder to severe Autism. Many have extreme difficulty with social interaction, some are verbally limited, most are cognitively limited.

My sister Ellen, who once was a peer volunteer, and has worked up to being a Site Coordinator and Supervisor for the Aids (I’ll explain). And this year, my sister Devin was an aide.

So basically how it works is that each young special needs child is paired up with a peer mentor – mostly elementary school or high schoolers – who then shadow them as they learn lines, understand the play, etc. These mentors are also on stage with each child during that actual production too.

It’s hard to wrap the mind around the enormity of a task – taking upwards of 50 special needs children and working with them for eight months to not only learn lines, coordinate dance moves, and try to understand the concept of a musical, but to break through the many, many developmental barriers – it’s almost impossible to imagine if your not sitting there.

Now, Ellen has been doing this for years, and Devin was a newbie this year. I knew that every week they went to their rehearsals and their meetings after long days of teaching in their own classroom (Devin) or running her own business (Ellen), but I will admit that I often don’t think all that much about it.

But then, sitting there at the back of a packed theatre, watching parents cry to see their autistic daughter dancing in a costume with her mentor and singing along – it makes your heart want to explode. Literally. It feels like a heart attack.

It made me stop ruminating about my selfish bullshit, and appreciate something bigger then my life. Things that you or I do hundreds of times day without even thinking - like smile in reciprocity, or hold a hand, or move our bodies to music - are milestones for the children.

Now THAT'S perspective.

It’s a challenge to sit through the whole thing and not cry. I have yet to do it. This year, I watched with my mother, who was attending her first production. And at the end, as we participated in the standing ovation, my mom turned to me, tears spilling over, trying to talk, but finally just waving a hand in front of her face - a loss for words.

It’s overwhelming.

So in addition to just spreading the word about this program, my whole point in talking about this is to really say how deeply proud I am of my sisters and the amount of work they put into this.

I am so proud to know that this program exists, and so honored to know two of people that are part of the reason it does. The physical and emotional commitment to helping put on a musical production in this manner is truly something to admire.

Like I said – it’s so easy for me to turn so into myself that I forget all the good that happens around me.

And my family helped remind me.


suzncasey said...

What hearts your family have!
You have every right to be proud.

Tri-Angle said...

We all should take a step back ...or a step forward, and appreciate what we have, and give it to others. Kudos to Ellen and Devin Meg. Good Family.

Flatman said...

That's awesome, Meg...! Tell them we (the internet) are proud of them. :)

kodiacbear said...

Wow Meg--I sit veclempt right now with the thought of it!! Wow...

stronger said...

It's hard not to get teary sitting here reading about how hard it is not to get teary. Awesome experience- nice work sisters.

TRI for Life - Lon said...

Ok, normally I don't comment. Just hang out and enjoy, but today I have something to say. First, your sisters are doing an incredible thing. What a wonderful gift they are giving to those families.

You know that I am involved with the transplant thing, and I do a lot of public speaking. Outside of the formal environment, I talk to a lot of people about the subject too. I think you should know that I tell your story a lot... and it motivates and touches people everytime. You went from an Ironman on top of her game to... donor in a matter of weeks. All to benefit someone else.

So look in the mirror. You inspire people too... your story is making a difference and motivating people. So hold your head high... and know that ALL the sisters are making a difference.

prin said...

Aw, this is the sweetest and awesomest post. *hugs*

Devin and Ellen are angels. :)

Yey, you guys!

Kolla said...

There you go again being all thouchy and nice and shit, making me get a little tear in my eye and stuff - and I wasn't even there.
Props to your sisters for doing it and to you for sharing. Might have to go out and do a good deed myself one of these days. Consider me inspired.

Joe said...

congrats to las hermanas for giving so much of themselves. this sounds like an amazing organization.

deb_dee said...

Beautiful post. All three of you deserve props (and so do your parents for raising such thoughtful women.) You've inspired me to see if there's an organization in my city that does something similar.

Mommymeepa said...

Great post. Where does this take place? I'd love to bring my kids next year. Thanks for sharing.

Kickstand Pam said...

I need a little perspective right now. Thanks Megan. And thank your sisters for me. :)

Ellen said...

It really is a place where lives are changed. Thanks for sharing SGT with the blogging world.

Alili said...

Thanks for sharing, sounds like a wonderful program. Kudos to Ellen and Devin!

KrissyGo! said...

Heya, long time no blogging for me, but this was a great one to return to. That's wonderful!

(And then I scrolled down to the one about porn subscriptions...I honestly don't know which one of these was better for my soul.)

Michael Tragic said...

That is very cool Meg.