Right now, we all desperately need to hear a happy story. Today, Leah and I want to share exactly that, because good things do happen every day, big and small. We are all due for quite a boost, so this one is more big than small (although I often find the small stuff just as inspiring). Enjoy.
The year was 2012 and Anna’s Angels Foundation was hosting their 9th Annual Gala in North Carolina for Down syndrome research at Duke Children’s Hospital. My mom was contacted after one of the coordinators had seen Leah’s story on Kathie Lee & Hoda’s segment of NBC’s Today Show (another tale for another day). She invited Leah and my parents to be flown to their event to re-create the performance she did on The Today Show alongside Broadway composer, conductor, and songwriter David Friedman and Broadway actress & singer Karen Mason. My family was thrilled for another opportunity to inspire and support Down syndrome awareness and research.
What I must preface is that Leah has this magic about her – I’ve written about it before and I’ll write about it again. It’s a natural sweetness that can’t be forced or faked. It’s instant, unintentional smiles on everyone around her. Uncertain of what warranted the smiles, but warming all hearts nearby nonetheless. When she sits down at the piano, it’s the uplifting product of endurance, optimism…practice, practice, practice. Although entirely biased, my perspective of my sister’s presence is real and recognized by many.
The night of the event arrived, and Leah, who had fallen extremely sick two days prior, was blessed with recovery for the evening. To my parent’s relief, Leah was -in fact- absolutely radiant the entire night.
The performance entirely consumed and captured the room with her magic.
I love to do performances for people. I like to show people the things that I have accomplished and to show them what I can do. I want them to see how I love performing with all my heart and to play the piano for them. It takes a lot of hard work and practice and time to learn the songs. My Mom is my piano teacher and she is the most wonderful piano teacher I ever had.
When I finish my piano performances I feel very happy and warm and wonderful inside and it is a very special thing that I just do for them. I also have a feeling of relief that I did a most wonderful and beautiful job. After I do a bow for the audience, I have a feeling that everyone in the room with me feels a connection because of my piano performance and it makes me happy inside all of my heart.
As the night continued, there was food and mingling. There was laughter and dancing. And then there were auctions. The final “raffle” was for a brilliant diamond necklace…tickets being no small dollar.
The lady who won the raffle for the necklace went up to the front of the room to accept her prize, and then sat back down at her table with a smile, admiring her new jewels.
A few moments later she got up and began walking, looking towards my family’s table… where all eyes in the room were suddenly fixed on as well. She then walked up to my sister, and handed Leah the necklace.
The room was immediately and unanimously speechless.
When the lady won the necklace and come to me and start to say that I want you to have this necklace Leah we say thank you for the offer but we can’t accept this. It is too big of a gift because it is worth too much money. We said to her to keep it for her but she wanted me to have it. So then somebody put the necklace on me. I was so surprised and shocked and it touched everyone’s heart when she put it on me. I felt so beautiful and sparkly and overwhelming in the moment. It was a magical moment and I couldn’t believe I was wearing the most beautiful diamond necklace I ever saw.
Tremendous inspiration filled the space for the rest of the night while Leah rocked that gorgeous necklace along with a starry-eyed smile on the dance floor, surrounded by all of her new friends.
It was a big night and a special night that I will never forget and I was still holding onto it and feeling the necklace all the way back to our hotel room.
Here’s to turning our minds Upside Down.