Robert Hajjar, Founder of IDEAL-WAY.ca, and Michael 'Pinball' Clemons, CFL Legend and Toronto Argonauts CEO.
"All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." Walt Disney
"All the world's a stage." William Shakespeare
When I was four or five years old, I would escape to the sanctuary of my bedroom to sing my heart out. I would stand before the large mirror that hung over my bureau, spread my arms wide, and take a deep breath.
The stage was set, my audience silent as a tomb, waiting with bated breath for me to enter the stage. I hung back in the wings, tentative at first, and just when the tension was almost too much to bear, I'd open my mouth and sing for all the world to hear.
It was always the same. I didn't need props, or costumes, or even other people. My dream to sing and dance would play out, and I was both the audience and the player.
At the end of every performance, the audience would rise in unison, and thundering applause would fill the room. It was a spontaneous, enthusiastic response to my evident gift for life on the stage, and I knew, for a brief moment, what it was to live out my dreams.
The adrenaline rush of placing my gifts and passions in the bowl of the world's hands was extraordinary.
Like most childhood dreams, it didn't last long. After years of playing to packed houses, I eventually grew bored with it. It was a silly game, pointless, and anyway, I had better things to do with my time, I told myself.
The dream was buried, along with many other dreams and wishes, sealed away in a time capsule deep within me.
As I was driving back from a friend's home the other day, I hummed along to a song from around that time. Mama Cass crooned "Dream a Little Dream of Me." It's a romantic song, full of longing, but I couldn't help but think the title applies to most of us.
As children, we're certain that our dreams can take us anywhere. There are no physical limits on our flights of fancy, and sometimes they travel where we dare not go.
But somewhere along the line, we take our larger-than-life dreams and whittle them down to something more bite size. Our dream to perform on the stage becomes a talent for telling a darned good joke at a cocktail party. Our stripped-down dreams are tucked somewhere far away, into a distant place where we can no longer hear their siren songs. The delirious feelings of 'soaring on wings of eagles', climbing the highest peaks, or exploring the deepest chasms, are deemed unrealistic.
We dream a little dream of me. And then there are those people who use their dreams as stepping-stones on paths to rich and rewarding lives. Raymond Hu, Bernadette Resha, and Michael Johnson. Sujeet Desai and Chris Burke, to name a few. Artists, musicians, and actors, who have placed no limits on their creativity, gifts and passions, because they aren't content to stand in the wings. What they accomplished took courage, readiness, willingness, and a deep desire to share their gifts with the rest of us.
They have something else in common: they all have Down syndrome. Dare to dream, they tell us with their gifts.
If I take up their clarion call, and give permission to myself to step out of the wings and into the center of the stage, why can't I do the same for others?
While I'm in the process of encouraging myself to dream big, I can step away from the center of the stage and applaud my fellow players.
If you're interested in viewing a video of Down syndrome children and adults who have dared to dream big, click here.