Dominic at School
I find it interesting to note how the etymology of the word “passion” has changed over the years. For centuries, the word passion was associated with “senses relating to physical suffering or pain.” Passion was a willingness to endure affliction, a willingness that stemmed from love. Today, passion can mean anything from a love of one’s wife, to a passion for coin collecting. While the intensity of the word has been somewhat diluted over time, I still recognize my true passions, as those select subjects which garner such willingness towards suffering or pain. Though I enjoy trivial pursuits like games, sports, and music, I understand that my passion-in a deeper sense- is something that transcends transitory boundaries. My passions are something that can change the lives of the individuals I touch. My passions run so deep through my core that I would be willing to experience sacrifice as I pursue them. My passions remain mostly undiscovered, but I know that one of my true passions is an earnest desire to care for disabled children; it is a desire that stems from my experiences with my beloved younger brother Dominic.
Such experiences started a decade ago when Dominic was born on an otherwise quaint March day. I was only eight years old when he was born; when I was informed that he had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy; when I noticed my mother was crying on what should have been a completely joyous day. Later that day my father explained to me the implications of this term I had never heard before, “cerebral palsy.” He did so in terms that I as an eight-year old could understand. Slowly, I began to understand the severity of the condition and the limitations that my newly born brother would be faced with. Dominic would not be able to walk, eat, or even communicate without aid. At first, I was slightly bitter and largely self-centered. Not only would I never get to fully connect with my new brother but he would also require more care than would an average infant. I vividly remember about two weeks after Dominic came home from the hospital, I insisted my mother watch the Disney movie Mulan with me. When she persisted that she was busy putting Dominic to bed I gave her a pouting lip and an angry glare. I continued to express my anger that I indirectly felt towards my new brother. My mother was not very sympathetic in response to my little tantrum. Looking back on the incident, a long timeout and a week without television was a deserving punishment for my rage that ultimately stemmed from selfishness. The next couple of years my brother grew in size but failed to grow mentally.
As the doctors predicted, he would not be able to control many of his muscles beyond blinking and the occasional swallow. His arm and leg movements were completely involuntary and his attempts to communicate were little more than groans and cries. Due to his cerebral palsy, there were only two things I understood about my brother. Barney the Dinosaur and Whose Line is it Anyways were the only shows that stopped him from moaning in complaint. Second, he would laugh at ridiculous facial expressions and hand gestures. It wasn’t until later that I came to understand him on a deeper level, but it completely transformed how I felt towards him and towards myself.
I quickly understand that I had to carry the weight of parental responsibility on my adolescent shoulders. My attained sense of responsibility forced me to leave behind feelings of jealousy, laziness, and selfishness. This driving force of necessity would act like a quick jolt of electrical impulse whenever shocking me out of my own marginal desires and helping me to focus on Dominic’s needs. Quite simply, this rare experience forced my young self to mature faster. After a mere year or two, taking care of Dominic had become second nature to me. I knew exactly what medicines to insert into his gastric tube, what barney episode would calm him down, and what time he needed to eat. At my young age, taking care of my brother had become a chore and sadly impersonal; It wouldn’t become a loving, passionate experience until several years later.
The transition in which caring for Dominic became a passion was not defined by any specific moment. Instead, I slowly began to realize how much he meant to me. Aid led to thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness led to love. Love led to passion. Caring for my brother was no longer a sense of duty; it was a powerful inert desire. I finally realized how much I had to be grateful for. Because of Dominic, I finally understood my own failure to put things into perspective.
An Inner Flame of Passion
Any adversity I face no longer brings me anxiety. In light of my brother’s condition, I have no reason to be anything but an optimist. “I am an optimist because it doesn’t seem much use to be anything else” as Winston Churchill once stated. In the grand scheme of things I realized that I live the life of the king. Dominic became an everyday reminder not to take things for granted. My positive outlook on life was not based on bliss but on humility. Through selflessness I had found ultimate joy and anxiety. After that point, I continually strove to return the favor my brother unknowingly taught me.
New feelings of protectiveness, selflessness, and humility began to arise as my passion started to evolve. The change was evident even outside of the house. The tactlessness of people towards the mentally disabled, especially children, became a sensitive subject, like salt to a wound. I felt driven to protect them from both verbal and physical abuse. Who is to protect the mentally disabled when they cannot protect themselves? Indeed these children deserved nothing but help. “Being blessed enough to be in good health, the least anyone can do,” I thought to myself “is use their abilities to make the lives of those less fortunate just a little better.” At least, I began to practice this philosophy as often as I could. When necessary, I would sacrifice sleep and time with my friends to take care of my brother. For over five years my passion towards helping my younger brother was well recognized between my parents, my close friends and me, but as I began to become more immersed in life outside of home, my passion began to take on new forms.
In the middle of my high school career I began an internship at the Clear Lake Children’s Center shadowing under a kindhearted pediatrician. I loved it. It was as simple as that. Every time she diagnosed problems in uncommunicative disabled children, calmed them down, or brought relief to such children and their parents, I was struck with awe. As I watched my mentor care for the autistic, epileptics, and occasional children with cerebral palsy, I immersed myself in the lives of both the doctor and her patients. I had amazingly stumbled upon a path that could lend my passion to ultimately benefitting society. Presently, I hope to pursue a similar field. Although it will be a long and difficult journey, I am willing to sacrifice my time and effort to bring forth this greater good. The medical field would allow me to help handicapped children in a variety of ways. I could do research and search for a cure, create new methods to relieve symptoms, or work with children personally in a direct setting. By understanding the science behind the origins and effects of cerebral palsy and other detrimental conditions like it.
Even if the medical field was not right for me, I discovered my passion for helping disabled children. After unearthing this passion, I considered many ways to fulfill it. Whether I become a lawyer who protects the rights of the mentally disabled, a teacher who helps young handicapped children grow, or a doctor who provides physical care for them, I know that my passion lies in helping handicapped children in some form or fashion. Until then I do what I can. Volunteering at fundraisers, the Special Olympics, and other events are but little ways I have tried to contribute to the fight against cerebral palsy and other pediatric disabilities. More importantly, I keep my passion burning by reconnecting with its source as often as I can. Although I cannot see Dominic on a daily basis like I use to, I am always here to support him.
Keeping my brother in mind, I let my passion guide me in my actions and always will. With a sincere willingness to sacrifice my own needs for the sake of mentally disabled children, I continue to learn. Through learning, I hope to gain more means by which I can reach out and touch the lives of this select group of children. My dreams are big and the road to reach them is long, but my passion is immensely stronger than anything that may get in my way. As the famous German philosopher Hegel once stated, “Nothing great in this world has been accomplished without passion.” While I may not accomplish everything I hope to in my life, I will be content knowing that I attempted to reach my goals with a burning desire of an unquenchable flame.
1568 with quotes
1531 without quotes.
Dictionaries, Oxford. Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th Edition Revised 2008 (Dictionary)
. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008.
 “Cerebral palsy: Symptoms – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cerebral-palsy/DS00302/DSECTION=symptoms (accessed October 12, 2009).
 “Sir Winston Churchill Quotes – The Quotations Page.” The Quotations Page – Your Source for Famous Quotes. http://www.quotationspage.com/
 “Hegel – History of Philosophy.” Letters, Arts & Social Sciences. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/mickelsen/ToC/Hegel-Hist%20of%20Phil.htm (accessed October 12, 2009).