26 May Living with Gratitude & Advocating for Love
When you have a child with special needs,
your entire view of the world shifts. Petty problems seem meaningless, and the future is unknown. You learn to appreciate and love the small things in life that you may have missed beforehand.
On a recent episode of The Darin Olien Show,
I had an insightful conversation with my dear friend John C. McGinley. Yeah, he’s a movie and TV star, but he’s also one of the most grounded, down-to-earth, authentic guys I know.
One of John’s best-known roles, Dr. Perry Cox on the hilarious comedy show Scrubs, is a loveable jackass who delivers zingers like “Should I talk slower or get a nurse who speaks fluent moron?”. One of Dr.Cox’s most endearing qualities is his hidden heart of gold. Although he wouldn’t have it in even a fraction of the beautiful way John portrays him to have it without Max.
Max is John’s lovable, compassionate, amazing son. He was born with Down Syndrome, which threw John for a loop, to put it mildly. “When a child is born with special needs, and you don’t know what’s coming down the pike, it’s like getting hit with a cosmic hammer of disorientation,” he told me. Part of that disorientation meant taking roles that kept him close to home, and close to Max. “My family has impacted where and how much I want to work,” John explained. When Scrubs came along, it was the perfect role at the perfect time.
John is so incredibly grateful for the things that Max has shown him, just by existing. And partly to share that gratefulness with the world, and partly just because he’s a beautiful human, John became a Global Ambassador for the Global Down Syndrome Society and the Special Olympics. John picks his organizations carefully and focuses on the ones that have lobbyists in Washington DC to impact the future, instead of what he calls “the kumbaya.”
“It’s not about holding hands, it’s about medical research,” he explains.
John also started the Spread the Word to End the Word Initiative after meeting a couple of young men at the Special Olympics tired of hearing the “R” word. The initiative helps to educate those how derogatory words like those can be, and how much they hurt kids and adults who can’t necessarily fight back. I know that when I hear someone using those words in front of me now, it is so much louder than it used to be before my friendship with John. And I’m grateful that I now have the knowledge and tools to educate others on the impact of their words.
The Most Challenging Role
John is such a thoughtful, meticulous guy. I mean he juggles while memorizing his lines for a new role, for Pete’s sake! Who does that? But even the most methodical practice can’t prepare you for the role of parenthood, and with Max and his daughters Billie and Kate, John is soaking up every lesson he can.