March 18, 2020
This week is one of my favorite weeks of the whole year! Not only do I get to celebrate my Irish heritage (yes, despite the last name that I took almost 20 years ago, my lineage is partly Celtic), this week also celebrates World Down Syndrome Day. On March 21st each year I get to celebrate all of my “homies with extra chromies” and the people who support them. What’s even more cool than that is World Down Syndrome Day is also known as the National Random Acts of Kindness Day which has seriously become my favorite day ever! Who doesn’t love being on the receiving end of something like that?
Now, about five years ago I probably would not have shared this with you because it was something that wasn’t a core part of who I am today. But that changed when I became friends with the coolest kid I know (and his family, of course!). As I often have mentioned, life is unpredictable. I see this every day in my profession as a financial advisor and I live it in my personal life as the parent of a child who is autistic. Take out the normal things we all face daily as parents and then add in a few extra layers of having to be hypervigilant about things you never would’ve dreamed of when you have to navigate a developmental disability – it keeps life very interesting! I have incredible professional people in my network and I get to work with them on behalf of my clients, and sometimes I need their services myself. My journey led me to a type of educational planning I wasn’t expecting and from there my relationship with Mark and his family was born.
Now, let me tell you about Mark. He is seriously amazing! Not only is he a great young man, Mark is a brother, friend, athlete, comedian, actor (seriously – he’s been in movies, commercials, and all kinds of cool stuff!), a kind-hearted soul, and a person with Down Syndrome. For those of you who don’t know, Down Syndrome most commonly occurs when people have a third copy of the twenty-first chromosome. Hence the correlation of March 21st being World Down Syndrome Day (3/21). If you have met a person with Down Syndrome you can certainly attest that they are the gentlest and most kind people on the face of this planet. And that’s where the National Random Acts of Kindness Day part comes in. It’s such a cool, packaged deal.
Mark makes everyone smile! His peers seek him out and he has a positive circle of support in his life, not just with his family, but with his educators, therapists, coaches, physicians, talent agents, and pretty much everyone his meets. He has a magnetic personality! His parents are both attorneys and that is how I met them. While his father practices special education law, it was not his first practice but developed as a result of having Mark in his life and knowing that he would need to advocate for his educational opportunities as he grew older. When Mark’s mother is not being an attorney and keeper of three active boys, she runs a local not-for-profit organization that supports people with Down Syndrome and their families (check them out at www.the21club.org). If you ask Mark’s family what they would want you to know about people with Down Syndrome, it would most likely include that they each deserve the same opportunities as everyone else and inclusion is such an important practice in all aspects of life. I truly couldn’t agree more.
Over the past five years I have been lucky enough be part of Mark’s life. With that has come Buddy Walks, basketball games, playdates with my kids (and playdates for the adults!), and participating in 3/21 Day with random acts of kindness. In the past I have given gift certificates to coworkers to local coffee shops, handed out blue and yellow wrapped chocolates, made bookmarks to send to school with kids to spread Down Syndrome Awareness and participated in the crazy sock craze (wear the craziest socks you own on 3/21 to show your support for DS Awareness!). I am SO INCREDIBLY BUMMED OUT that I cannot actually do most of these things this week given the situation we are all facing with the state of the world today. Our kids are out of school, I don’t plan to leave my home out of health safety, and if I wanted to hand out “random acts” of anything people might think I am nuts since this is not a prudent time to be physically “sharing” good cheer since we are social distancing and trying to prevent the spread of germs and disease. The whole situation truly hurts my heart.
I’ve spent the past week or so thinking about this and how I still can find ways to honor this special day and all it means to me. I came up with this: send a random surprise through Amazon to a few friends, support my local business friends by making purchases now that I can pick up or use later (gift cards usually never expire and many places will deliver them electronically), but my favorite is that I am going to write three handwritten thank you notes each day for the next twenty-one days. Handwritten notes are such a dying art and I love to receive them! I keep sending them hoping that somewhere they pass on good feelings and brighten someone’s day. And hey – they say it takes twenty-one days to create a habit and this would be a great one to have stick! I would encourage you to give this some thought and find something you can do as well! If you do, please share them with me! I’d love to do a follow-up on this and share good news with my readers. I think we can all use positive vibes right now.
Each week I try to write a piece about something that is real and is relatable to what I experience in my practice as a financial advisor. What does all of this have to do with financial planning? Absolutely nothing. Of course, I could tie it into financial planning and things you need to consider as a parent with of a child who requires extra planning, or considerations for running a successful not-for-profit, or planning related to any myriad of complex matters. I think though that sometimes we all just need to take a pause and think about the things that are not financial or business related. We can find joy in the simple things like Mark does every single day. In this way I look up to him and hope I can be more like him. Offer to help where you can, be kind and compassionate, give people a reason to smile. We all need that right now, and that means absolutely everything!
Iris Buczkowski is the founder of Birch Wealth Management (birchwealth.com). Original content provided by Iris is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.