CBS News report on Iceland eliminating Down syndrome
Today I’d like to introduce you to a friend who holds a very special place in my heart. Kathleen Sheil is an incredible example for all the qualities that I look up to another person. She is confident, yet humble. She is open and honest and genuine, and most definitely unafraid to stand up for herself and for others. She has this incredible way of making everyone feel welcome when in her presence. She gives of her time generously as a board member of Cincinnati nonprofit LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled), where she lives independently, and numerous other disability related organizations. And she also seeks opportunities to encourage and inspire others to be all they can be.
I see Kathleen as a leader, not only among her peers, but in the community as well. I consider myself so fortunate to be among her friends. Kathleen inspires me to be a better person.
Over dinner the other night, we got to talking about life. Kathleen’s motto, “Go out with the negative and in with the positive,” was inspired early on by her parents who encouraged her to always be confident in herself.
“My mom has always told me to put my best foot forward and that I need to be learning the whole aspect of being on my own completely. My parents never treated me differently from my siblings. They want me to be independent and a person of energy, a leader. They want me to also do my best with everything I do, if they are with me or not with me,” she told me. “I need to live the moment and to think about what that one thing is that makes me happy. That one thing for me is not just talking, not just my friends or my family, and not just LADD, but just being myself.”
“And who IS Kathleen?,” I asked.
“I am someone who is beautiful, honest, respectful, very positive, outgoing, and a leader who encourages others to be very special. I like to make conversations with different people and get to know who they are. I am a person with dreams and goals. I like to sing, do art, and plan events. I have always wanted to find that one person. I am very fortunate to have a family and friends who love me for who I am.
“I am someone who wants to be treated with respect,” she said.
A few weeks back, we heard about a CBS News report of how Iceland is eradicating Down syndrome with genetic testing and abortion. Kathleen was moved to action. She shared her thoughts in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer that was published. Among her words…”I want you to know that I have Down syndrome and I am important to this world. Yes, I may be different from you because of who I am, but we are all different from each other….Above all else, I am a person, like you, who deserves to be loved and respected. I have a lot of friends who are like me and who deserve to be loved and respected too. If I had not been born, the world would have missed out on getting to know Kathleen Sheil!”
THAT would have been a huge loss to this world because Kathleen, you make this world a better place.