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Remember Your Example

I have this vivid memory that comes to my mind every so often. I’m about twelve years old, sitting in church, a few rows behind an older couple with a young man sitting between them. He made gestures and noises to them during the service and they would respond. They were in service nearly every […]

I have this vivid memory that comes to my mind every so often. I’m about twelve years old, sitting in church, a few rows behind an older couple with a young man sitting between them. He made gestures and noises to them during the service and they would respond. They were in service nearly every week, sitting in the same row, in the same order: mom - boy - dad. As I recall the scene now, the young man had Down syndrome and they had to be his parents. They stayed close to him, walking in and out of the church. I was curious but didn’t really understand the situation.

That was one of my only encounters with Down syndrome, as a child. How lonely and isolating their journey must have been. What stays with me, even now is the picture of faithful, loving parents doing the best they could to raise their son. I’m sure they never noticed me or realized the impact of their actions on me all these years later, walking that same path and remembering their example.

This has also inspired me to set an example myself. We never know who is watching and learning from us. How we engage with people who have special needs affects everyone around us. That is part of the magic of Dutton Farm. We are all one big family. When people stop by to tour, or shop, we make sure they meet all the participants and communicate in some way. It’s very natural and comfortable for everyone. You can see the apprehension dissipate (in both parties) as the visit continues. Pretty soon they are communicating without any intervention. It just takes someone to be a liaison and build a bridge.

We are making great strides and growing rapidly. Please help us with our employment, adult education and community inclusion. Dutton Farm is changing lives on both sides of the bridge. We need people to attend our events, buy our products and support this important mission. Our High Hopes Gala is November 7. It is an award ceremony highlighting the Dutton Farm participants and their success stories. We would love to see you there!

Originally posted October 17, 2019

About Michele Smither:

Dutton Farm is a non-profit organization in Oakland County that serves individuals with mental, physical, and emotional impairments. Staff are friends (no really) and work is meaningful. Our purpose is to positively impact the lives of our participants through partnership, dignity, and contentment. We provide an array of activities that foster self-belief and satisfaction. Our Community Integration Program and our Dutton Farm Market offer employment opportunities to people of all abilities. Here on the farm, we believe in the endless potential and worth of every human being and their ability to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Read more by Michele Smither

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