If you want to help someone, first learn something from them.

It’s no secret that we can’t truly serve people until we know what they need help with. It’s no secret we can find a solution until we identify a problem. And in my experience, it’s to be certain that there is something we can learn from each person we meet. In fact, I believe to be the greatest servant leader we can be, we must first have the willingness to put others needs before oneself, we must have the humility to accept we do not always know what’s best for ourselves and others, and we must have the meekness to learn from and about others.

Now I believe for my internship with the Down Syndrome Association I am still in the stage of learning from others. And my, how I have learned.

In three weeks at the DSACO office, I have learned several important things:

(1) Improvement is always possible, and it is always necessary. In striving to better the lives of those with Down syndrome in the central Ohio area, improvement is not an option, it is our mission. So every day we are trying to improve communication, increase planning, assess experiences, and brainstorm ideas.

(2) To maximize impact, one must work with others. We don’t know all the answers, and we can’t execute all the plans, so teaming up and collaborating can minimize knowledge gaps, and maximize output. We work with other passionate people in our office, we work with experts in various fields for our different programs (Golf Academy, Summer Learning Academy, Lose The Training Wheels, etc.)

(3) Have fun. We laugh a lot every day, and I wake up every morning excited about going to work, hanging out with the staff, and meeting new people.

I’ve learned just as much from the Down syndrome folks and family members I have met this Summer:

(1) Celebrate the small things. Possibly the most powerful thing I’ve learned this summer. There can never be enough high-fives, too much dancing, or too many laughs or smiles.

(2) Learning is exciting. To have the opportunity to come out of something knowing one more thing than before you came in is extraordinary, and it should never be taken for granted, whether you’re learning how to putt a golf ball, identify a picture of a camel, or pick-up a new dance move.

Other things I’ve learned that I think you should know too: Down syndrome is caused by having three copies of the 21st chromosome. That extra chromosome can result in low muscle tone, small stature, and several other medical conditions. These results vary in magnitude across Down syndrome patients. It is the most common chromosomal abnormality, occurring once in every 700 or so live births. Approximately 4 million people worldwide have Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. And it is Down syndrome. Not Down Syndrome.

While I’m still learning, I’ve come a long way from the young man who had never spoken to  someone with Down syndrome. And it’s been truly a blessing. Learning? Check. Serving? Let’s do this.

~Alfred Yates

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