Over time Tom and Amanda have learned to adapt to a life with a special-needs child. According to the CDC “nearly half a million babies in the United States” each year are born prematurely or before 37 weeks of gestation. That number calculates to about 1 in every 9. The earlier the baby is born, the more severe the potential for permanent damage. Duncan is affected with severe visual impairment, hydrocephalus, and spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.
Sometimes when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we find a deeper understanding or develop a new connection to our spirituality. Since Duncan’s birth, Tom has done just this. He is a Druid Elder of Old Stone Grove practicing the Keltoi Tradition and also the co-founder of Misty Mountain Grove. In order to strengthen himself and help his son achieve, Tom regularly draws from the wisdom found within these Druidic teachings. He said:
Druidism places a tremendous amount of emphasis on personal responsibility and carries the old Celtic belief that everyone is better than his or her birth. In other words, not only can you improve yourself, but you are obligated to; so some of the first lessons we are taught are “be, do not become” and “do, do not try.” Our teaching methods are not methodical, but instead they are experiential. Rather than tell [students] “here is how you do this thing and here is what it means,” we will give [them] a tool or a concept, point them in a general direction, and tell them to see what they can do. Then we help [the students] process what they experience. In this way students teach themselves through a path of self-discovery.
How does this particular world view apply to Duncan? In short, he can do anything he wants if we give him the tools to do it, and therefore he should. Nothing is impossible if we keep providing him… opportunities to self-discover, learn, and grow.
With his parents’ dedication, Duncan has grown into a bright and energetic child with a dynamic sense of humor. He loves dinosaurs, reading, the mountains, and the beach. He is fond of world music, particularly the sounds of the didgeridoo. For fun and therapy, Duncan rides horses and hopes to become a cowboy when he grows up.
But for now he’ll have to be satisfied with leading the Walk for Babies on April 12th through the North Georgia Mountains as the March of Dimes’ Regional Ambassador. Tom said,
Since Duncan’s survival was due in large part to advances and research by the March of Dimes, [we have] participated in the annual March for Babies since Duncan’s first birthday. Each year Team Duncan gets a little bigger and does a little better…Team Duncan is doing its best to make as big a noise a possible
Over the past four years, Team Duncan has raised about $13,000 for the organization. To help with this year’s fundraising drive, Tom tried something new. He created a Team Duncan training video for their March for Babies pledge page. “I just figured [that my friends] would get a kick out of it and maybe a few would contribute,” he said.
Tom decided to post Duncan’s video to the forums on the North American Scottish Games Athletics (NASGA) website. He is an amateur competitor who frequents the site to engage with other athletes. Completely unexpectedly, Tom’s video went viral. Highland Athlete Duncan McCallum has uploaded his own video call-to-action:
In addition, the North Texas Kick-Off Games professional and amateur athletes created and posted their own support video:
Tom remarked, “The Highland Athletics community is extraordinarily supportive and friendly. We’re all family men and women and everyone wants everyone else to do well. It’s a small enough niche sport that the sense of tribe outweighs the sense of competitive rivalry.”
Thus far little Duncan Lawrence has achieved so much; overcoming more obstacles in his five years than many do in fifty. Although he may not understand the Druid notion that we are “better than our birth,” Duncan truly embodies it. He is very lucky to have parents who nurture his success in whatever form it might take. Tom said:
The Druid world view … teaches great patience. My peers joke that I move at “tree speed”, but it pays off. It took Duncan almost a year to lift his head, but he did it. He was four before he learned to walk with an apparatus, but he did it… He’s going through a natural process to get there. It just takes time and hard work. We believe that he has a right to live and to succeed and that all he needs are the opportunities and the tools. Strong trees don’t grow overnight.
The Team Duncan video is now making its way around the Pagan community warming hearts and lifting spirits as it goes. Watching a child succeed beyond expectation can engulf the spirit in pure and trans-formative joy. It is the gift he gives to us. That begs the question: who really is the lucky one? Duncan or us?