by Amy Halm
I love Thanksgiving because it provides the opportunity for me to look around the table and be grateful for each and every family member. This is a special Thanksgiving for me because for the first time in 22 years, I will not have to get on an airplane to celebrate the holiday with all of my family. We used to live 800 miles apart and we now live in the same town! I am so grateful to be closer to everyone in my family, including my younger sister, Emily.
Emily has Down syndrome. She is sociable and extroverted, and she likes to talk to everyone about her feelings and experiences. She has a genuine enthusiasm and honesty in the way she approaches people. This is the case with friends, family or people she interacts with only once. I really admire Emily’s sincerity because the response from others is positive and people in turn they share more of themselves.
Emily and I enjoy reminiscing about our stories as sisters. As children, teens, and adults – many of our sibling stories revolve around the notable and amusing differences between our personalities. I tend to be more of a listener with a small inner circle of friends and family. And I learn a lot from Emily’s more extroverted approach to the world. This is perhaps best illustrated by the times when Emily visited different apartments that I lived in early adulthood. In each of her visits, I had lived in my respective apartments without having met my neighbors. Within minutes of entering these buildings, Emily had introduced herself as well as me to my neighbors. She wouldn’t dream of walking past a neighbor and smiling without introducing herself, as I had been doing for weeks (or maybe months!) And consequently, I felt much more comfortable knowing who lived near me.
Emily might tell you that, as her sister, I have tried to play more of a mentorship role in helping her make appointments with local agencies, resources, and services, when she recently moved. I know she is grateful for that effort but I feel like it has been a natural role for me to play as her sister. I have knowledge of local resources and I enjoy sharing that information with Emily. All I have done is line up the appointments because once she enters the front door of these organizations, I continue to admire her ability to sincerely connect to everyone she meets and share her experience, strengths, and needs.
During this season of Thanksgiving, I want Emily to know that I am thankful for the contributions she offers to our family, friends, and community. She constantly reminds me that life, family and new friendships are worth celebrating. Our personalities are quite different but our commitment to each other is lifelong.
For many years, I have appreciated the resources and peer support as a sibling of a person with a disability that I have experienced through the SLN. As the new Project Manager for the SLN, I have been so excited to learn even more about the organization and its incredible leadership and vision for the sibling movement. The SLN’s committees provide our network with great information and resources, the state chapters are engaging in innovative programs – many in collaboration with SLN, and the SLN Board is positively guiding the direction of our organization. I hope you will consider a gift that supports the great work that is being accomplished on behalf of siblings, at the SLN.