The moment took my breath away.

As they called his name and he took a few faltering steps, several seniors jumped to their feet clapping loudly. Within seconds the rest of the large senior class leapt up as well.

Teachers in chairs onstage joined in and the other teachers in the audience chimed in too.

A thundering roar of loud whistles and cheering rose to the heights of the ceiling as my great nephew (with his teacher close behind) made the journey to his principle and awaiting diploma in the middle.

The long evening of rapid recitation of graduate names came to a one minute standstill as they paused to give this young man his full time in the spotlight. His uneven yet joy filled gait took him the length of the stage—pausing occasionally to look out over the cheering sea of his peers and teachers.

As I stood with our family, surrounded by such a joyful noise, I could barely see what I recorded due to the welling tears in my eyes.


I wanted to fall to the floor and weep with overwhelming gratefulness at the outpouring of love for this young man.

The wave of enthusiastic support and care curled around not only him, but also his family.

This moment-in-time recognition of a twenty-two year life journey celebrated a beautiful, nontypical life: difficult steps that for others were an ability taken for granted, life basics achieved over many years, and the joy and love he brought to each of their lives.

He met his unique requirements to receive his graduation diploma from an extraordinary high school in a school system that embraced and assisted him from day one.

I have watched from afar (we live 2,000 miles apart) as he grew. His parents, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, school system, teachers, administration, principals, aides, speech therapists, feeding therapists, respite care providers, and others surrounded him, lifted him, taught him, helped him, encouraged him, equipped him, and genuinely love him.

Employers and co-workers who offered grace, care, and understanding to parents for unexpected absences and unplanned events through the years.

A picture of true community encapsulated in one minute on a high school graduation stage.

What a privilege to witness.

Helping kids and adults with intellectual disabilities grow to their fullest potential takes grit, perseverance, and lots of hard work.

The reward of knowing them makes it well worth any output necessary to meet their needs.

These unique individuals offer back what the rest of us often miss in our busyness, stress, and distraction—the simple joy of a heartfelt smile and daily life milestones.

May I offer my thanks to any of you involved with persons who have intellectual disabilities?

We are one big community and must spur one another on in love!

If you know someone who has a family member with intellectual disabilities will you send them a text or note of encouragement this week?

Taking a moment to honor their life will mean the world to them and their family.

(Check out one of the best organizations I know that offers wonderful individual care and respite opportunities for families. Jill’s House: