Guest blogger Chris Steiner, office administrator for the Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association based in Dayton, OH, contributed this week's blog post.
“How old is your child with Down syndrome?”
“I don’t have a child with Down syndrome.”, I reply. “So, you have another relative with Down syndrome?” “No, I don’t have another relative with Down syndrome.”, I reply. The trajectory of the conversation has gone in several different directions, in my experience.
However, the underlying feeling I often get is, my passion and purpose for working for a DSA is being question.
I began working for the MVDSA in November 2015 (quickly approaching my 4th anniversary). All of the employees (current and previous) and board members have or had a child with Down syndrome. I was recommended for the position by a friend of mine that has a child with Ds; it didn’t even occur to me this could be a concern. I did occur to me that I had broken barriers and stereotypes in the past and I was confident I could do it again.
Did I do anything different or change any of my normal methods of approaching my new role? No, I didn’t. I have been in a customer service role for nearly all of my working career and I used many of the same techniques as the MVDSA Office Administrator.
The member families are the clients for which I am here to serve while also ensuring I maintain appropriate ethical business practices. I think it took some period of observation from many of the member families and believe me there were some awkward moments, but in time I started noticing that people were less hesitant and much more inclined to approach me with a variety of topics.
Fast forward to 2017. I was certainly getting more comfortable and felt “at home” with the MVDSA families and friends. By this time, there were two new hires in our office.
The events coordinator had an aunt and a nephew with Ds. The bookkeeper did not have a connection to Ds – but she was the bookkeeper which is a specialized field and basically doesn’t “count”. The “uncomfortable feeling” returned a little but it quickly dissipated. I was fortunate enough to attended my first DSAIA conference in that year.
That uncomfortable feeling came rushing back during the conference when meeting new folks from other DSAs around the country. I do believe it helped that I had been with the organization for over a year and experienced Buddy Walk®, supported other MVDSA fundraisers and other events and was still “gutting it out”. I knew I had proven it to myself and to the organization that I was worthy and had passion for the Ds community and therefore the feeling didn’t last long.
I want to tell you all, I know I belong here, I know I bring something special to the MVDSA. I know this because of the comments and actions of the Ds families and friends. I know because one of the MVDSA founding families has told me at nearly every fundraising event that they are happy to see me and that I always have a smile onmy face, no matter the situation. I know this because more than one of the board members has basically told me I can never leave. And finally, I know this because just yesterday, a MVDSA mom took her lunch break to come and get her 2020 calendars and gave a me a huge hug before she left for to finish the rest of her busy day.
Lastly, while I don’t have a familial connection to Down syndrome; I do have my nephew Ben. He is a 33 year guy with a typical twin sister. He is our family’s everything. P.S. He loves the Buckeyes, women’s tennis and all things musical (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, you get the picture).