Red Glasses Movement means COMMUNITY

The question of ‘what does Red Glasses means to me’ is one I have been definitively trying to answer for years- yes, years!  Each time I have sat down to write about it, I have so many thoughts and emotions, that I cannot clearly communicate its’ meaning. You could say, I felt a little lost about how to answer.  Until the other day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was subbing in the elementary school that I frequently substitute in, and I was having the kind of day that you stress yourself out over a bunch of little things for no good reason. As I was waiting for my students to return from music, I saw a kindergarten boy that I have gotten to know, and who happens to have Down syndrome.  I was excited, as always, to see him, but little did I know, he was about to change my day.  Just as I was starting to say hi, he ran up to me and gave me a HUGE hug.  Like, arms and legs wrapped around me huge…and in that moment a wave of gratitude hit me.  I was and am so grateful to be a part of the school community! What else hit me, was how that hug felt a lot like an “Audrey hug”. The kind of change your day, make everything better, pure love and joy, possibly a bit strangling hug that I missed so much.  And in that moment, I knew what the Red Glasses mean to me, and that is a sense of COMMUNITY.  A community where you feel loved, welcomed, and honoured; and I have Audrey and her amazing family to thank for that.

Our family has moved around quite a bit, and while living in Michigan we were lucky enough to live close to and become friends with Audrey’s family and be a part of Audrey’s community.  What was Audrey’s community you ask? – great question!   Friends, family, nurses, doctors, teachers, grocery store employees, complete strangers turned friends – we were all brought into her life because of her BIG, vortex style LOVE and it was a good place to be.  Watching her take on the world BOLDLY, break down barriers, take on new challenges, and accomplish things people doubted she could, all while spreading love and hugs like they were going out of style.

After moving from Michigan, I missed that vortex.  I wanted to be closer to Audrey and her family to experience her BOLDLY achieve her goals. When Audrey passed, I no longer just missed her, I felt lost. I wasn’t near her family and everyone that knew her and loved her, and I desperately wanted to be.  But, without me realizing it at the time, Audrey was already helping me expand her COMMUNITY through the Red Glasses.  I began sharing Red Glasses to say thank you for acts of kindness and love.  Not surprisingly, I gave several pairs to my children’s teachers because they showed up with BIG LOVE each day.  It was through these connections that I considered subbing at the school.  For me, it was a BOLD move. I do not have a teaching background and wasn’t sure I was qualified, but when the school said that what they really needed was a Special Education Para Substitute, I knew Audrey was sending me a message and I wasn’t going to ignore it. So, I took the leap of faith, and began subbing.

In the past four years I have been surrounded by the most amazing students, who LIVE BOLDLY each day, and staff (whom I now call friends) who show up with BIG LOVE for their students, and I am so blessed to have found a place in that COMMUNITY.  Now, each time I share a pair of Red Glasses and Audrey’s story, I realize that she has given me the gift to invite someone else to experience the love and support of the Red Glasses Community as we encourage each other to LIVE BOLDLY, LOVE BIG, and PASS IT ON!

-Renee Schuster