Samantha Sleva is a former colleague of Mike’s. She worked for him for the entire 2011/2012 academic school year. And though we only got to spend one short year in Italy with her, she instantly became part of our family and always will be. One of my favorite Sam memories is coming home after a date night while she was babysitting with another colleague to the two of them sitting on the couch with bowls full of popcorn watching our unedited wedding video. I think we walked in while they were on hour 5! We miss you, Sam, and can’t wait to visit again in Chicago. Thanks so much for sharing the impact Annie had on you. We are also forever grateful for the impact you’ve had on all three Beazleys. Sending love from your other home! Please come back soon!
I met Annie Beazley in August of 2011 when she was just 4 months old. I was preparing for a year abroad working as a Student Life Assistant at the John Felice Rome Center, where Annie calls home. I was certain that this year of work would be transformative, I just didn’t know at that point that this little one would play such a role in that transformation. I knew very little about Down Syndrome before meeting Annie, and I will admit that I was very ignorant about it. That’s why I think this blog is such an important tool. It has the power to show the world that Down Syndrome isn’t that different, and it has the power to share the sunshine that Annie brings to so many people.
When students walk through the green gates of the JFRC, they expect that they will learn from their travels, their experiences, hopefully their classes, and from the Eternal City itself. However, what most people don’t expect is how much they will learn from the Beazley family. Here are a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Annie and the Beazleys in the short year that I spent with them:
1. Celebrate the small victories. There was nothing sweeter than when Annie would master a new trick, or learn a new word in sign language. We would always celebrate with cheers and “brava’s”. Every tiny victory was the next step to something greater, and I think its important for us all to remember how important the little things are in life. If you can find pleasure in the simple joys, it makes life that much sweeter.
2. Sometimes the most difficult times can be the greatest blessings. Colleen has shared how difficult it was learning of Annie’s diagnosis when she was born, and I feel comfortable addressing it here because I know its something she has and would share with anyone who asks. Many of Colleen’s blog posts this month have been about the importance of positivity. October 15th’s blog post was spot-on in my opinion. Just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean its a bad thing. In fact, every difficult moment in my life has made me better for it. If we didn’t have those moments, the good ones wouldn’t be so sweet, and you can’t grow if you’re not challenged.
3. Have high expectations for the ones you love. I know that Mike and Colleen let Annie reach her milestones at her own pace, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the highest of expectations for her. It is through this that she has already achieved such great things! Like any little one, Annie can be stubborn sometimes, but Colleen is always there to make sure that Annie is doing her therapy, always teaching her new signs, and making sure that she is challenged to keep growing and learning. I’ve never seen Colleen or Mike feel any limits to Annie’s potential, and that has been the greatest attitude to witness. I know that this is not always easy, but that’s why point number two is so important! What I’ve learned the most from this little one and her amazing parents is the power of support. There are so many children who don’t feel like they can reach their potential because no one believes that they can (and I’m not limiting this to individuals with Down Syndrome). One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Suess – “If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will go its whole life believing its stupid.” Everyone has their own potential to reach, and I hope that everyone can learn from this wonderful family that anything is possible with some support, a little tough love, and a positive attitude. I’m quite far off from having children of my own, but I know that this will be a lesson I carry with me when I become a parent one day.
Learning about Down Syndrome has changed my outlook on so many things! It has especially made me realize that Down Syndrome is NOT THAT DIFFERENT! Honestly, most of the time, I didn’t even think about it. That’s why awareness is so important. I feel blessed to have met the Beazleys and to be part of Annie’s life. I am certain that she and her parents will continue to inspire the students who pass through the green gates of the JFRC, and I can’t think of better role models for young people.