The Little Ones Among Us

In a recent family conversation about the Trump phenomenon which quickly turned into what Biblical scholars call a “communal lament”, we concluded that the best, most effective thing we can do is ignore him: stop listening to his every word, stop fixating on his television appearances, stop searching the newspaper for the most recent ridiculously outlandish thing he said. Son John came up with the idea that we should try to start a movement to turn our backs on him and proposed TYBOT (Turn Your Back On Trump) buttons and T-shirts.

Easier said than done. I simply could not resist descending into the moral gutter he inhabits with the announcement this week that former employees of Trump University are accusing him of running a dishonest, fraudulent business that preys on vulnerable people and makes a lot of money, and his unprecedented infantile outburst when a reporter asked him about the $6 million he bragged about raising for veterans. I have moved from dismay to outrage to anger to sadness; deep sadness, not simply at Trump’s antics, his bullying, name-calling, making fun of people with disabilities, vulgarity that most of us left behind in Jr. High, not even his obvious ignorance of global realities and glaring racism, nor even his adolescent dismissal of the United States government, judicial system, foreign service officers, and the international treaties and structures such as NATO that have remarkably kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. My sadness is that my fellow citizens are swallowing this stuff so that, at this date, he seems to have a reasonable chance of becoming the President of the United States, my president.

I needed something positive and encouraging about the human condition. Instead of hyperventilating about Trump I decided to reflect on an event I attended last Saturday morning that was about the most hopeful experience I’ve had in a long time. There is a theatre troupe here in Chicago called A.B.L.E. – Adults Breaking Limits and Expectations. It is a troupe of 15-21 year olds with Down Syndrome who rehearse and present several dramas per year in a Chicago theater. The presentation last Saturday was William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as part of the Shakespeare400, the theatre world’s year-long commemoration of Shakespeare’s death. The actors first learn the story line and then are assigned a role, or roles, to play. Katie Yohe, who studied at the Globe Theater in London and is a working actor in Chicago, directs the program which includes a wonderful group of volunteers from the Chicago theater community. A volunteer serves as a “line dropper” following each player and reciting the line the actor then repeats. The actors, in costume, throw themselves totally into their roles showing deep understanding of the dramatic action. Sometimes they surprise their line droppers by reciting their lines by memory.

It’s the way each one of them inhabits and personalizes his or her character that gets to me. Katie Yohe says that Shakespeare is fitting for actors with Down Syndrome who “tend to be big in emotion….every emotion is 100 percent on the surface at its fullest amount.”

I have seen most of the productions over the past few years and have watched as the actors have matured and become more expressive. My granddaughter, Rachel, has been part of the project since its inception and knocks our family out at birthday celebrations, dinners and picnics by reciting full lines from Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew and now Twelfth Night.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, modeled after the Globe, was sold out for the performance. As on each occasion over the years, I was not only impressed but deeply moved by the production, but even more, by the profoundly human impetus to care for and enable and empower the little ones among us, the weak and most vulnerable, demonstrated by the wonderful young volunteer actors.

At the end of the program and after much bowing and high-fiving and a rousing standing ovation, Katie Yohe thanked everyone and then thanked Rachel Buchanan for her loyal, spirited participation in each production from the beginning and presented her with a citation and a medal. Rachel is graduating from the program as she will soon turn 22.

For a blessed two hours on a bright Chicago morning I was delivered from lamenting what Trump is doing to my nation not to mention to the Republican Party, by stunning evidence of human goodness and potential and hopefulness.

Rachel, by the way, has been accepted by National Lewis University to the PACE program as an entering student this fall.


  1. Linnea Schramm says:

    Thank you John Buchanan for once again bringing to light what is truly important and inspiring in our world. I so wish I had known about this performance as I would have enjoyed seeing it. I too lament about what could potentially happen to our country in November but believe deep in my heart that we will not succumb to a future that would be unimaginable with a president so unfit to serve.

  2. Thanks for this touching story, John. Rachel is a great gift. Trump not so much!

  3. Linda Akins says:

    I had decided to never click on anything about Trump again but am so glad I made an exception for this article. What an inspiring story and important message to Hold to The Good.

  4. Fred Schuler says:

    Great news: Rachel 1 – Trump 0 !

  5. Jeanne Bishop says:

    Yet another way Rachel inspires me to live more the way she does, with unabashed, authentic, unselfconscious joy.

  6. Debbie Whitmore says:

    Congratulations to Rachel ! It seems only yesterday that it was Confirmation!

  7. Barb Coop says:

    I love your stories about Rachel. They make me smile and remember how much is still good in our lives. So for a few minutes, I could forget about Mr. Trump.

  8. Helena Flickinger says:

    Katie Yohe is a truly a wonderfully kind and talented young woman. She does what she truly loves the people and developing their talents. She and Racel were blessed to work together.

  9. Marianne says:

    Oh, thank you for this beautiful post. I’ve been struggling with all the emotions you all have, and determine to distract myself with something wholesome and not so future-dreading. As a retired educator, my heart is always warmed by kids performing, finding their element, doing extraordinary things. Such a wonderful event! Congratulations to Rachel. Again, thanks.

  10. Phil Gibboney says:

    Possibly one of the very best experiences life has to offer in contrast to the political antics of the day.

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