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When My Boyfriend Didn't Want to Come to My Brother's Down Syndrome Walk

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My older brother Chess loves movies, wrestling and comic books, and he also has Down syndrome. He has a lot in common with my amazing boyfriend Frank; it was no surprise that they became best friends almost instantly. Chess even invited my boyfriend to visit him in Atlanta (without me!). When October rolled around in 2013 Frank and I had been together for over a year, so I decided it was time to invite him to his first Buddy Walk, a Down syndrome awareness event. “He gets along with Chess so well,” I thought. “Why wouldn’t he want to come?”

Suddenly he had different things to do that Saturday, and I just couldn’t understand it.

Why don’t you want to go?

You love Chess and this is in support of him and so many other families with a loved one with Down syndrome.

Don’t you want to support my family, my brother and even me?

What I needed to realize and what Frank helped me see is that not everyone can jump in full force. Yes, he and Chess got along great but that didn’t mean he was ready to be 100-percent immersed in a community I’d been a part of my whole life. Sounds silly, right?

I apply my same logic when I’m about to get mad at someone who’s used the R-word. I used to be quick to write off anyone who uttered the word without trying to explain why it’s hurtful. I had to realize that I come from an amazing family backed by an amazing community and not everyone is as lucky as I am to have that.

Frank helped me understand that small steps are sometimes the best way to educate and teach someone about something they’re unfamiliar with. That day instead of going to the walk, Frank did something else supportive: he took the R-word pledge. He spoke to his loved ones, friends and co-workers about how the R-word is offensive and asked them to refrain from using it if at all possible.

The next year, Frank and I crossed the Buddy Walk finish line hand-in-hand. He even came along and volunteered with me at the Special Olympics Florida games.

I love being a part of this community and now so does Frank, but he taught me one of the best lessons in compassion and understanding; sometimes it just takes baby steps to learn and grow.

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Originally published: November 13, 2015
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