A Kathleen Day
Kathleen is our friend and neighbour. She has just turned 18 and has finished High School. Kathleen has Down’s Syndrome. Her absolute most favourite thing IN THE WORLD is Cinderella. In particular, she loves being Cinderella. Last October, an event happened in her life that I can’t seem to stop thinking about. Halloween was coming up and Kathleen wanted to be Cinderella. Not particularly surprising or noteworthy. What is noteworthy however is that the Educational Assistants and Support Staff at her high school decided to get in on her idea. So, instead of Kathleen just dressing as Cinderella for Halloween, each of those staff members got in on the fun. They chose roles and each dressed up as a character from the story. There were mice, step sisters, prince charming, a step mother and a fairy god mother! The entire day was devoted to giving her the most incredibly special day!
Flash forward to spring time. Graduation time for Kathleen was approaching. While the other girls were thinking about their prom dresses and the wonderful evening they would have, Kathleen was dreaming about being Cinderella. Her mom set to work trying to find a place that might have a dress that would be perfect. Her mom knew that while this was a special night for all of the students, for Kathleen, this might truly be the most special night of her life. The other students may have other huge celebrations to look forward to – college or university convocations, weddings, babies, - this graduation from High School might just be the biggest public celebration for Kathleen.
And so the dress hunting began and ended not far away in the small town of High River! Not only was there a dress, but the day that her mom took her in for her fitting, Kathleen was treated like a royal princess. She tried on the dress and was able to step up onto the platform and view it from every angle. All of the staff in the shop made it an amazing time for her! Measurements were taken and the path looked paved for the perfect graduation evening. Kathleen was counting the weeks! She even had a date! The teenage son of one of her Educational Assistants had invited her to be his date. They would travel by limo with her parents to the venue, sharing the meal with both families and other family friends.
On June 20th, without any real warning, the town of High River had the worst flood in its history. Torrents of water flooded through the streets in mere hours. As the river rose, water entered homes and businesses and went from inches on the floor and in the streets to over 4 feet of water in less than two hours. Residents and business owners tried to secure what they could, but most of them were eventually just grateful to be rescued before the chance of rescue became impossible. As we watched the events of the flood unfold on the television, Kathleen’s mom commented to me that although she knew that there were so many more things to be concerned with, she just kept hoping and praying that somehow, Kathleen’s dress would be ok. Grad was 10 days away and there would be no way to get another perfect Cinderella dress in that time.
The shop keeper in High River had plenty on her mind too. Her shop was filling with water. Amid all of the chaos of the flood, she suddenly remembered about the special dress for Kathleen. She managed to get to the shop, find the dress, put it on a truck and have it sent to her home,a location away from the flood waters. As fate would have it, there was no location that was safe from the flood. When she realized this, again she got to the dress, rescued it and made sure that it was safe. Kathleen’s mom, of course knew none of this until a few days later when she called to tell her that the dress was safe! It was such an act of consideration – a small act in so many ways. But it was such a deliberate act of kindness; an act of selflessness in the truest sense of the word.
When graduation day arrived, the limo had been ordered, Grandma and Grandpa had arrived and everything was set to go. Cinderella had her hair done, her nails polished and her picture had been taken at home. My husband had volunteered to be the paparazzi; to wait at the end of our lane and to take pictures as the limo passed by. We had painters on ladders working on our house and we had given them firm orders to give us the signal when the limo started leaving Kathleen’s driveway so that the paparazzi could take his place at the top of the driveway! The limo was filled with Cinderella and all of her dreams. Her date had arrived with his family. Kathleen’s brother had created a special playlist of her favourite music to be enjoyed en route.
When I was driving home after the graduation, I couldn’t help but think of all of the planning and thought that went into making that day such a perfect one for Kathleen. This was a special evening that had been made so by many people. I got to thinking that our world would be a more wonderful place if everyone got to experience “A Kathleen Day”; a day where each person felt truly known. Known enough that someone would go out of their way to make one of their dreams come true or to simply create a day, or part of a day, that the recipient simply loved.
And so I am sending out the challenge to watch for opportunities to create “A Kathleen Day”. Perhaps it will be “A Kathleen Moment” instead. But either way, someone will know that they are cared for deeply and that someone knows them well enough to know what special means to them.
Please watch for and create ‘Kathleen Days’. Write about them and send them to me. I will post them here.