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Brothers & Sisters

A Visitor From Ireland

Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 3:23 AM
By Harper Kidder

In the summer of 2002, I was involved in a spectacular program. It’s called the Ulster Project, and it takes teens from Northern Ireland, half Catholics and half Protestants, and sends them over to each live with an American for a month.

Northern Ireland is torn by fighting between the aforementioned religious associations, each with their own paramilitary organizations, and the project sought to teach teens to accept each other and work for peace. It accomplished this by having all of us together almost every minute of every day, and we grew so tight that they completely forgot about who was what religion anyway.

The boy that lived with me was a delightful guy named Robbie. And although so much happened that month, most of my fondest memories involve Jordan.
Jordan, at the time, was 12. He was a lot different then, but also very much the same. Rob had never encountered a person with Down Syndrome, and having been notified of Jordan before coming to live with us, was quite nervous as to what he should expect. Jordan was equally anxious about someone from Great Britain. He didn’t like the idea of someone else stepping into a brother role in our house.

So on the second night Robbie was here, at our first dinner as a family, Jordan leaned over to my mom and asked “When do we get rid of him?” However, my mom was seated across the table, and he had to speak loudly, and we all heard. My mom, using that incredible mother wisdom, replied “What did you just say?” Now, Jordan is a person who takes things literally, and is often asked to repeat things for people to understand him, so very clearly, and even louder, he queried again: “When do we get rid of that boy?” I was caught between stifling laughter and worrying if we’d offended Rob to an extent that would dampen our relationship the rest of the month. But he just looked at Jordan and answered in his Ulster accent “I believe the date you’re looking for is July 26th.” From that point on, we knew that Rob would fit right in.

They really got to be like brothers. At one time, when we were on our way to the pool, Rob had kicked his shoes off in the car. He got out of the car without them, and Jordan picked them up to take to him. He walked up carrying them and attempted to drop them into Rob’s hands. Rob just said “How class of you to carry my shoes in for me, Jordan.” Class was the current Irish slang for cool. Jordan really disliked having to carry other peoples stuff, and kept trying to make Robbie do it, but was met with the same response every time. Jordan finally got exasperated and acquiesced. I laughed at that, but the more I thought about it the more I appreciated just how important it was. From a different culture a thousand miles across the ocean this boy who had never known a kid with Down Syndrome had connected with Jordan and formed an incredible bond.

I remember right after Rob boarded his plane back home Jordan said “Oh, now I only have two brothers again.” They had connected phenomenally. Since then I’ve spoken to Rob and he’s found children with Down Syndrome in his area. My mother got a few new customers from Northern Ireland.

It’s always amazed me, with all of my friends, how much Jordan impacts people’s lives. He has a Midas touch, changing people’s lives for the better whenever he sees them. I can’t think of the last time anyone left his presence visibly unhappy. He has a perpetual contagious joy about him. That’s one of my favorite parts of having him around.

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