I was a freshman in college, joining organizations to get involved, as you do, when I volunteered with BestBuddies. Truth be told, we had to join at least one other as part of the sorority. A couple of my sisters were buddies, which is where I heard the name from. I don't remember when I first met Mendy, but I was probably nervous. I tend to get anxious before anything new..anyone new. All I remember is how quickly she touched my heart and became one of the biggest pieces of my life.BestBuddies LSU basketball game | MontgomeryFest

She was half a foot shorter than me. I say this because it's one of my favorite things. When we were in group settings - playing fancy at BB gala events, chatting with other buddies - she would stand in front of me. I could see right over her and be part of the conversation. It was like, she didn't need me to help her with anything, sometimes it seemed like she didn't know I was close. Until she'd reach her hand back. She wanted to know I was right there. That I was in reach.
I love her hands. They're so wiggly and tender. We'd walk through the mall for hours. I never figured out if it was the mall she loved or the fact that it was a big venue for us to spend the most amount of time in. After about two or so hours, she could always sense when I was starting to get restless. Before I had a chance to bring up 'should we start heading out?', she would grab my hand while we were walking and tell me, 'I love you, Annie.' Well, that just bought you another hour. And she knew it.
We dressed up as '50's chicks for Halloween and rode in a Mardi Gras parade together. Her dad would give her twenty bucks every time I picked her up and she wanted a cd with that moula. A cd from Target. Then she'd ask to leave it my car and control the player. It was all very sixteen-year-old-new-car-freedom kind of excitement and I lived off of it. Everyone who rode in my car had to listen to Christian Rock and everyone had to hear about my Mendy.
She'll never know what kind of mark she left on my life. I lost her phone number in between moving states after school and secretly hope I'll get a phone call from her out of the blue with that, 'I been missin' yoouuu!' that could brighten ANY day. I think of her often and my heart swells with happiness. She saw the world with this lightness. There was no judgment (except when it came to LSU football - those players better be on top of their game. She was their number one fan. I'm talking, LSU bedroom makeover for Christmas type fan.). She taught me to be light-hearted and to appreciate spending time with people. She'd remember anyone I ever brought up. If my roommate's cousin's dog was hurt, she'd remember to ask about him the next time. ('did I tell her about that dog?!')
If I see someone with down syndrome, I immediately want to hug them. Okay, I want to hug people at an abnormally high prevalence. But I want to talk to them and hear about their day from their sweet, innocent perspective. I want to take something away, and I usually do, just by being around them.
I hold BestBuddies to the highest regard. Especially that Baton Rouge chapter and especially my wonderful friend. I was paired up with Mendy to help give her a friend (not that that little social butterfly needed more!) and to show her that she mattered, but she did more than that for me. Way more. I'm forever changed because I met her over ten years ago. (I'm old enough to say 'ten years ago'?! ugh.)
I helped pair up other buddies to their volunteers during my second year. It's part of my resume. But really, the words 'Matching Chair' don't nearly describe how it shaped me.
Today is Spread the Word to End the Word day. I started writing a tweet to encourage others to stop the word and found myself opening an email to complete my thoughts. Not that this is half of my thoughts on the matter, but Justin is home from work and he deserves my undivided attention. So, I'll leave you with this adooorable video. Just use a different word, okay?!.