I read a remarkable story recently that a friend shared with me, about a group of dancers in Buenos Aires who were learning to dance the tango. Nothing unusual there; the tango being synonymous with Argentina of course. These dancers, however, took far longer than most to learn such an exotic and complicated dance; up to ten years as opposed to a more usual single year. These dancers had Down’s syndrome. A remarkable story of determination, patience and perseverance that led some of those dancers (or artists as their instructor rightly prefers to call them) performing to audiences across Argentina and literally moving them to tears.
Yet it was not their achievements that stood out for me, remarkable though they were. No. It seems there was another reason why it took so much longer for the group to learn the intricacies of the dance compared to most. A reason that had nothing to do with any physical limitation or impairment.
Simply, whenever the music stopped the dancers would seize the opportunity to move around each other, chatting, hugging and generally socialising with one another. So much so their instructors had quite a job refocusing them on the task in hand!
And that got me thinking.
How wonderful. How utterly refreshing and uplifting.
A group of people who love to communicate. With each other.
Learning the dance was important, very much so. But the friendships, the connections that were there to be made more so I imagine.
It is said that people with Down’s syndrome have difficulty communicating. Their speech maybe impaired or delayed or even non-existent perhaps.
Parents, educators, medical professionals all agree that Speech and Language provision is vital for a person with Down’s syndrome. And of course, it is. I don’t deny that for a moment.
The more people I meet with Down’s syndrome, the more I am convinced that they are better communicators than the rest of us put together. They are not often constrained by convention or etiquette or old fashioned British stiff upper lip. They rarely look at the clock and feel pressured by time. They are free to be themselves. So they are.
I just don’t have the time is a phrase you will rarely hear from a person with Down’s syndrome. Yet it’s a phrase that many of us can be heard saying on a daily basis.
I need some ‘me time’ is another; in a world where we fight to carve out time for relaxation. So many of us under stress to breaking point.
Is it ‘me time’ that we really need? Is it more time even? Or is it that we no longer make time for one another.
Perhaps we would do well to look at the lives of the very people society has so often shunned; people with Down’s syndrome. To look at people deemed to have communication difficulties and learn from them. Allow them to teach us, not the other way round. Allow them to show us how to come together in the midst of what we strive for and listen to each other, talk with each other, make time for each other. Show us how to truly communicate with each other through whatever means we have.
However long it takes.