What We Can Learn From Williams Syndrome

What We Can Learn From Williams SyndromeIndividuals with Williams Syndrome face a lot of difficulties. However, they are born with an incredible “superpower” that I believe is way undervalued and overlooked in our society. They are born with a talent for being kind.

 

What Is Williams Syndrome?

 

Williams Syndrome is a genetic condition that is characterized by cardiovascular anomalies and developmental disabilities. According to Williams Syndrome Association, it affects 1 in 10,000 people in the world, and is not exclusive to a particular gender or culture. Heart defects are a common problem among these individuals, and they can also have unusual facial features. They are generally considered to have “Elfin’ faces” due to their full lips, wide-spaced teeth, depressed nasal bridge, and broad forehead. (Due to copyright purposes, I can’t legally show you a picture for an example. Google it sometime!)

 

They are also known for having “stars in their eyes” due to a star-like pattern in the iris. Infants with Williams Syndrome may have difficulty feeding or chronic middle ear infections, which can both be problematic for their health. They may have mild to severe intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, musculoskeletal problems, elevated blood calcium levels, or increased risks for ADHD or anxiety disorders.

 

However, individuals with WS are extremely friendly and talkative. They love to be social and are super extroverted. They have high language skills, but this can lead to a lack of social constraint due to how friendly they are toward strangers. They have difficulty with pragmatics, meaning that they have trouble understanding nonverbal gestures and listening rather than talking in a conversation. They may have restricted or repetitive interests or have difficulty interpreting abstract language. Interestingly enough, these individuals may have an unusually strong aptitude for music.

 

What Can We Learn From Them?

 

God created these beautiful individuals for a purpose. They are not flawed, they are wonderfully and fearfully made. Yes, they may have to endure a lot of hardships and difficulties. But they have mastered the concept of loving people. They want to be friends with everyone they meet. They aren’t worried about what other people think of them and they don’t fear rejection from striking up a conversation. They don’t hold back their friendliness. They spread joy. They love to dance. They have beautiful souls and they just want to talk to you.

We have so much to learn from these individuals.

 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Say Hello.

 

“Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – A Cinderella Story. This is a great quote because we should never let the fear of failure or mistakes to keep us from trying. Don’t be worried about your pride or potential embarrassment. Say hi to people! Embrace some wisdom from those with WS and learn to be friendly.

What We Can Learn From Williams Syndrome

 

  1. Love On Anyone and Everyone.

 

What We Can Learn From Williams SyndromeIndividuals with WS are open to talk to whomever they come in contact with. Even strangers are potential friends, and their kind hearts are welcoming and loving. They are typically quick to help people and are empathetic to those who are hurting. In the video below, you can watch as the toddler with WS reaches out to comfort a fallen stranger unlike most children his age. While it is important to have constraints for safety purposes, I think we can learn a lot about unconditional love from these individuals. How often does your kindness correlate with your opinion of someone? How often do you knowingly or unknowingly judge someone or treat someone differently based on an assumption or stereotype? Kindness is free, and the world needs more of it. Let’s be open to sharing it.

 

I am in no way trying to trivialize the syndrome or the difficulties that can go along with it. People with WS are people just like you and me. They also need your support, love, and special treatment/therapy to help them with their medical and social concerns. But we can also learn a thing or two from their openness. We can learn how to be more kind.

What We Can Learn From Williams Syndrome

 

For more information or just to watch a heartwarming video, click here. And click here if you’re looking for ways to help or get involved with the association.

 

What are some more things we could learn from Williams Syndrome? What are other disabilities/syndromes/conditions that could teach us kindness or other valuable life lessons? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

With love,

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For more posts related to kindness, check out the rest of the series

The Kindness Challenge3 Simple Ways To Practice Kindness Today

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3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness

3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness Today | adventuresandkindness.com3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness Today

We probably all agree that kindness is a good thing. We also can agree that the world needs more of it. Yet have we stopped and looked inside the mirror? (cue Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror). The world needs more of it, but what does this look like? How do we go about being more kind” to the people we interact with each day? It may seem unrealistic or complicated (I definitely thought so at first), but I’m here to make it super easy. So what are 3 simple ways to practice kindness?

  1. Look Behind You

3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness Today | adventuresandkindness.comStory time. Okay so the other day I was walking to class, going to work, and eating at a restaurant. (All very normal things, right?) Except this time it was different. I began to notice the behavior of the people around me. First, I noticed that we open and close a lot of doors. (I promise this is relevant, just hang tight!) Second, we have tunnel vision. We look straight ahead, and we rarely glance anywhere else. Our eyes are fixed on what lies up ahead…or fixed on our phone. (we’ll get there in #3, no worries)

These two characteristics are the reasons why sometimes we’re walking behind someone and as we approach a door, they just let it close in our faces. It can annoy us and frustrate us, and it is something that is so preventable! On the other hand, whenever someone holds the door open for us we tend to be impressed and thankful. It’s such an easy thing to do. You open doors all the time. But when you do,  look behind you. If someone is back there, then pause to hold the door open for them. Think about all of the millions of times you open a door during the course of your day. That’s a lot of possibilities to brighten someone’s day and show a little kindness. And it’s so easy!

 

  1. Embrace Interruptions

Our society values speed. We want everything to be fast, easy, and convenient. We live busy, rushed lives that allow us to jam pack as many activities and appointments in as possible. There’s barely enough time to eat and sleep, let alone time to be interrupted when we’re in the middle of something important (and basically everything seems important).

But the other day at work, a coworker that I hadn’t seen in awhile came in and asked about my break. I, of course, did the automatic response of “It was good, how was yours?” Surface level and very lame, yes, but we’ve never worked the same shift before so I didn’t think to come up with a better response.

Then she did something that surprised me. She sighed and said, “not so good.” As she began to describe the struggle that her family was facing, I realized that she just needed to be heard. She just needed someone to listen and tell her that it was all going to be okay. How often do we miss those opportunities to just listen? Opportunities to drop what we’re doing and focus on someone else? We overlook them all the time, but we shouldn’t.

When someone interrupts you, what do you do? Get annoyed and try to quickly get back to what you were doing? (I know I’m guilty of it!) But just think- what’s more important, the person or the task? When you prioritize people, you end up practicing kindness in the most rewarding way.

 

What's more important, the person? or the task?

 

  1. Make Eye Contact

The other day I was talking about an old classmate of mine, and I was super complimentary of how genuine and kind he was. I told someone, “When you talk to him, it’s like he’s really listening. He makes everyone feel special.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what made him so different from everyone else. When this guy asked you a question, he didn’t halfheartedly listen. He didn’t interrupt. He didn’t look down at his phone or off into the distance. He looked directly into your eyes.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but eye contact is important. It’s a social cue that shows you are interested in what the speaker has to say. It shows that you care, and that you’re listening.

3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness Today | adventuresandkindness.com

When we talk to people, don’t we want to feel heard? And don’t we want people to know that we care about them? Let’s try and really listen. Let’s direct our eyes (and our attention) back where it belongs.

 

These 3 simple ways to practice kindness are realistic and applicable. Try it out today. Look behind you when you open a door. Embrace interruptions, and prioritize people over your to-do list. Make eye contact, and show people that you care about what they have to say. It’s as easy as 1-2-3! 🙂

Do you think these 3 things are easy enough to do? What are some more simple ways to practice kindness? Let me know in the comments!

 

With love,

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Want more simple ways to practice kindness? Try the KINDNESS CHALLENGE!

 

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The Kindness Challenge

Photo by Brennan Ehrhardt

Photo by Brennan Ehrhardt

The Kindness Challenge- I’m not always good at being kind. I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of things that happen throughout my day that can sometimes build (and build) to create a frustrated and snappy Emily. It’s really not pleasant.

It can be simple things too, like spilling something on my shirt (I will admit I do this way too often) or misplacing my phone for the millionth time. I’ve learned that it is really easy to get wrapped up in all of the things that can go wrong, even in just the first hour of my day. For example:

  • I didn’t hear my alarm and now I’m running late. (Panic, yes definitely panic, it will help.)
  • I’ve pulled out almost every item in my closet and I’m still not dressed. (Daily quote- “I have nothing to wear!”)
  • The traffic is crazy and I have to be at work ASAP. (Whyyyy?)

Life can be stressful. There are so many ways to get frustrated. So many things to complain about. But the problem is,

 

soon we will have to speak to someone.

 

It may be a roommate, spouse, or family member. It may be the neighbor watering his plants or the friendly lady who works at the front desk. It’s so tempting to take out your stress and crankiness on the first person that you see. But just because it’s tempting, doesn’t mean that we should do it. Yes, we have rough days sometimes. Yes, something will likely go wrong today. But it’s how we respond to life’s demands and frustrations that reveals the condition of our heart.

 

So how do we respond?

We can respond two ways: kindly or unkindly. What the person “deserves” is irrelevant. That isn’t up to us to decide. We don’t know what they’ve been dealing with today, yesterday, or all last year. Everyone is struggling with something, and everyone could use a little more kindness in their lives. We have a gift that we can give them. It’s free, but it does require a little effort. We can give the gift of kindness.

We can brighten someone’s day, and even brighten our own by letting go of the negativity and focusing on all the positives. Today, you are alive. Today, something will go wrong. Today, you can choose to respond with kindness.

It’s definitely a challenge. Are you up to it? I’ve created a 30-day Kindness Challenge that I will be doing over the next few weeks. Join me! It can be done in any order, and there’s no need to feel guilty for not completing everything. The goal is to simply challenge yourself. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding. Stay tuned, my friends, as I write about the Kindness Challenge/practicing kindness!

The Kindness Challenge

What do you think of the Kindness Challenge? What are some of your ideas on practicing kindness? Share in the Comments below!

Want more 30-day Challenge ideas for practicing kindness? Here are a few I found to give you some more inspiration!

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