Last Friday (2/9/18), I had such a rushed day from the time I woke up. I was so focused on getting my “task list” checked off, making sure I had finished some blog posts, making my necessary phone appointments, exercising, worried about my kids making a mess in my semi-clean home once they returned from school, and so many other things we all have in our “routines.” Not once did I have to think – “will I have the ability or physical strength to do any of these things?” “Will I have an issue understanding what I need to do?” “Will I need assistance with anything?” NO! I just went about my business, doing my stuff like it was second nature.
Last Friday night all my “needs” and “have to’s” were put into perspective. I had one of the most humbling experiences in my life, and guess what? I sure needed it! Attending the Night to SHINE event made me realize how thankful I need to be for everything, especially the little things!!
I had the privilege of volunteering at a special night dedicated to people with special needs and it was really amazing! As a matter of fact, it was a PROM! If you had the chance to read my previous PART 1 post last week, then you will know this was my first time attending any sort of Prom, which made it even more special to me!
But this post is not about “me” and getting a chance to be dolled up for the evening, or even having this life-changing epiphany. This post is about how amazing, incredible, happy and just plain “grateful” every one of the guests with special needs was last Friday. Even the parents were incredible!! As a matter of fact, you know what I was thinking while watching the guests/families come in to Masso’s Catering Hall? Have I become so absorbed with myself and my goals, that I’ve forgotten to just STOP and think about what I have already? Life is good – it’s really not as bad or as stressful as we make it seem.
I volunteered to be a “buddy” – which basically means I escorted my guest to all the events/activities at the prom and kept them company for the evening. It was such an awesome time – there was dinner, dancing, a photo booth for silly pictures, limo rides, a station for hair/makeup, shoe shines, professional portraits for the guests to have done of themselves, and so many other things they could participate in. There was even a banquet being held in a seperate room for the parents of the guests. This gave them a time to just rest, relax and have a night out of their own! My favorite parts of the evening were, first, watching the guests first come in with their families and seeing how excited they were just to be there all handsome and dolled up for the evening. Second, was seeing the guests walk down the “red carpet” with all the volunteers on the sides screaming and cheering for them as loud as possible and paparazzi taking their pics as they entered the main dance hall. The guests were so excited! Some laughed the whole way down, others ran down. Some guests were soaking in the moment and walked down the red carpet very slowly, where as others were pumping their fists in the air getting everyone to yell louder! It was just incredible! I shed a lot of happy tears, that’s for sure!
Each guest received a beautiful, white rose corsage or boutinnierre once they arrived. They also got “crowns” during the evening to be a “Prom King or Queen.” You could tell they felt so important. They OWNED the night!
Some of the guests I had a chance to talk to during the evening told me this was the best night of their lives! The guest I hung out with for the evening was a 21 year old guy who LOVED to dance! We were both on the dance floor all night, just having fun in the crowd. Actually, he was a really amazing dancer and kept showing me his “moonwalk” and making me listen to the “Kanichiwa” rap song on his cellphone. He kept asking me “So, I’m a good dancer right?” And when I would say “yes” – his face just lit up with a big smile. He also told me he loved to garden and landscape, and was working on getting some training at a local school so he could “learn how to get a job.” And of course, he was 21 and looking for a girlfriend, so he would ask girls how old they were and if they were around his age, he’d ask for their information! Then he would walk back to me and ask me “do you think she likes me?” After 4 or 5 attempts at meeting the ladies, I replied – “You might meet a nice girl at your work training school, so keep your options open and just have fun partying tonite!” Then he said “oh okay, you’re right…I’m going to meet more girls and find out if they like me later on..” LOL :o)
Moral of the story: My guest was in the middle area of the autism spectrum and had some comprehension disabilities and a short attention span, BUT he was on top of the world! He was so happy about everything around him, about everyone who talked to him. His only concern was if we were going to have another “Night to SHINE” Prom for him attend next year and if the same volunteers were going to hang out with him again! At the end of the evening, I asked him if I could give him a hug because he was just such a sweet person! :O)
There were many guests ranging from mild disabilities to more severe. There were guests with Down Syndrome, some who needed assistance with speech tools, guests with Autism on many different spectrum ranges, some with mental disabilities and a few in wheelchairs. And, I don’t point this out to focus on what they “can’t do” but rather to talk about how we were all under one roof, celebrating each other, our differences, our common ground of wanting to feel special and be loved by everyone.
We need to take a step back and think about if our lives are really as hard as we say they are. Can you look me straight in the face and say, without a doubt, that you have nothing but problems? Honestly – most of us don’t think twice about jumping out of our beds each morning and starting our day. We don’t need assistance brushing our teeth, or signing our names. Most of us can read, watch iPad, talk on our cellphones AND eat breakfast simultaneously without losing our places! We can drive a car, ride a bike, talk clearly and coherently. We can follow simple instruction manuals for putting things together, do puzzles, etc. Most of us can walk into a crowded room without feeling uncomfortable. We can be out in public without feeling overwhelmed and afraid. We can pretty much take care of ourselves!
Now, imagine how the parents of children with special needs must feel. They must have been so excited to find out they were expecting a child. They had limitless hopes and dreams. Before they found out that their child had some type of disability – don’t you think they had a big list of things they were looking forward to do with their kids in the future? And not to say, they will never fulfill any of those wishes/goals, but my heart just goes out to these parents because they need just as much encouragement and support as their children. They don’t have the luxury of stopping to take a break whenever they want, or going out whenever they want to. They need to be there to help their child with some or all basic functions. Some parents have had to forgo their personal goals for the sake of their child, who has a permanent disability. I’m sure many of these parents are just tired, worn out and frustrated on many occasions. And yet – they need to keep going and making sure their child has all the resources they require to live a normal and fulfilled life. These parents are “assisting” long into ages where they need to be “assisted” themselves. These parents of people with special needs are AMAZING and INCREDIBLE and deserve more praise than words could ever express! They have this “supernatural” inner strength and drive – like a super hero! I think “self-less.”
Night to SHINE is an absolutely phenomenal event! Whether or not you agree – we are ALL BLESSED WITH MORE THAN WE THINK. One thing, I definitely had reinforced that evening is that it is more fulfilling to give than to receive. Even though I had volunteered to help the guests with special needs that evening, I think the guests made more of an impact on me than I on them. As I mentioned earlier – I didn’t have a big epiphany but rather a wonderful reminder that we don’t need a fancy “prom” to make us be thankful of where we are in our lives. We definitely don’t need a “prom” to remind us how to treat people.
We just need to go to sleep thankful for everything we were able to accomplish earlier that day. And then, wake up thankful for everything we will be able to accomplish today!
For locations all over the US that participated in the “Night to SHINE” event on 2/9/18 and more stories and videos of the evening, please feel free to check out all the details at: