The World According to Missy
"It's not going to snow here," I said. "It's going to snow someplace else. Someplace far away."
"I'm going to Day-Hab!" she shouted again.
"I know," I said.
"TOMORROW!" she yelled.
"No problem," I told her. "We live far away from that place where it's going to snow. It won't snow here."
"I'm going in!"
"No snow tomorrow, Missy. I promise."
Her eye movement slowed and she calmed down. "Thank God for that." she mumbled.
Missy is my sister-in-law. She has Downs Syndrome and she's lived with our family for four years now. She's 37 years old and she has this thing about "going in." You see she really likes her job, which varies between working with the Meals on Wheels people, visiting old folks at a local nursing home, and doing some light dusting at the County Court House. She approaches all of these tasks with great enthusiasm, and she gets to them by school bus.
Five days a week, Thomas rolls up in front of our house with his short yellow bus. He taps the horn, waves at me, and Missy waddles quickly out the front door and across our lawn. She climbs the three steps into the bus. Thomas waits for her to sit down, then he taps and waves again and drives off down the street. He'll bring her back home at 4 PM. My job, since I work at home, is to make sure she gets on the bus and to be there when she gets off.
On most days, Missy rises before I do. She gets dressed, makes her lunch, and then sits on the couch, staring out the front window for nearly an hour until Thomas arrives. Some days, I'll sit and stare out the window with her. We'll talk about what she's going to do that day. She's never really sure where she's going to wind up. All she knows is that she's "going in." "I'm going in too," I'll say as we sit there. "As soon as you leave, I'm going in!" I only hope that I can muster the same enthusiasm for my work on that day that she will. But she's got that extra chromosome, and that gives her an edge. Luck of the draw.
I once did a seminar at a Holiday Inn. At the end of the day when it came time to pay the bill I was chatting with the woman who handles the catering. I handed her my American Express Gold Card. She held it in her right palm for a few moments and just smiled at it wistfully. "Something wrong?" I asked.
"Nope," she said. "I was just thinking. I work with homeless people in my off-hours, Dan." She gazed at me with this incredible peace in her eyes. "You know the difference between those people and you?" she asked.
"What?" I asked.
She held up my Gold Card. "This," she said.
She saw the dignity in people, and she fully understood the luck of the draw. I think of her every time I take that card from my wallet. It was a good lesson, and I think of her when I'm with Missy.
Missy has also taught me a lot. She's always saying, "Thank God for that." She'll ask Marianne what's for dinner and Marianne will say, "Meatloaf," and Missy will say, "Thank God for that." She doesn't say it in a way that draws attention. You really have to listen for it. It just pops out, regularly and like a mantra. Or a prayer. We're having mashed potatoes tonight, or we'll tell her that one of our daughters is coming home from college in two weeks. "Thank God for that," she'll say. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, returning children - it doesn't matter which, she's thankful for it all. I find myself repeating her words in my mind and in my heart. Thank God for that, and especially for Missy, because she makes us think about such things.
I was once having a beer at a convention with a contractor who was consumed with the growth of his business. He worked so hard and he hardly ever took time off. You would think that he loved what he did. We were talking about work and I asked him if he had ever taken the Lottery Test.
"What's that?" he asked.
"If you won millions of dollars in the Lottery, would you give up your business?"
"In a friggin' minute!" he admitted and laughed. "That's why I'm working so hard. So someday I won't have to work."
This guy really didn't like "going in." He was doing it because he felt he had to. He could learn a thing or two from Missy. She "goes in," come hell or high water, because she likes what's waiting there for her. If she didn't like it, she'd go do something else. Life isn't that complicated for her. But then, she does have the advantage of that extra chromosome.
Missy has taught me that if you can't pass the Lottery test you really should move on. A job (or a business) should be something that you look forward to, every day. I've seen Missy get up at 4 AM in the dead of winter, bundle up, and go outside to sweep a light dusting of snow off our front lawn. I'll go downstairs in my pajamas, stand by the front door, and watch her work out there in the dark. In her mind, she believes that sweeping the snow will help Thomas the bus driver get to our house in the morning. She thinks that she can control the weather with a corn broom and when Thomas shows up at 7:20 AM, Missy will look at me and say, "See?"
She'll also get out there early and move the trashcans five feet down the street if I mistakenly positioned them between the front door and where Thomas stops his short yellow bus five days a week. She's "going in" and no trashcan shall stand in her way. Can you imagine what life would be like if you approached your work with this sort of persistence and determination?
There's one other thing that she says that I wanted to tell you about at this special time of the year. When she gets frustrated, she'll look at us and say, "So? Who cares?" For instance, let's say it really is snowing and she just can't sweep the lawn fast enough. At first, she'll shout, "I'm going in!" but as the drifts pile higher she'll just accept the inevitable and come back inside. She'll take off her coat and her boots and look out the window. Then she'll mumble, "So? Who cares?"
Missy is a lot better than I am at accepting a situation for what is. But she does have that extra chromosome, and she has used it to work out a pretty good philosophy on life. Begin with "I'm going in!" Bring that attitude to all that you choose to do, especially your work. If you find this is impossible, you fail the Lottery test and you need to find some other sort of work.
If, once you've "gone in," you find that things aren't working out exactly as you had hoped they would, just smile and say, "So? Who cares?" Then back up, have a good laugh at yourself and begin again tomorrow.
And when it comes to the blessings that you have in your life - your health, your children, your friends, your spouse, your daily meatloaf - don't forget to say "Thank God for that." It works for Missy and it will work for you too. You'll see.
The world according to Missy is pretty simple. She's been blessed with this extra chromosome that lets her believe she can change the weather with a corn broom - and make snow angels on the days when she can't.
Thank God for her.