Some days you just need someone to knock you out of your doldrums or toss away your pity party invitations for you. My friend Doug Leader is one of those friends. The other day Doug handed me a picture of flowers and bugs that he carefully colored in with this favorite marker colors. Doug is artfully skilled with markers and color markers. He’s even more skilled at bringing out the best in others with his sensitive spirit and upbeat nature.

You see, once you meet this 47-year-old, his challenges with Down syndrome fade in the background. I first met Doug over a year ago at a local bowling alley where a group of my friends, including Doug’s oldest brother and his wife, were enjoying a couple of competitive fun games. Doug loves to cheer people on and give them a high five when they get a spare or strike.

Dedicated Coach and Cheerleader

Doug and others with intellectual disabilities have played for their residential home’s basketball, volleyball, and softball teams. An avid sports fan, Doug also likes to pretend he’s our bowling coach. “Come on, you can strike them all,” he yells as you get ready to hurl your bowling bowl down the lane. Doug is also quick to let you know he cheers on his beloved Meagan and Flip Rodriguez on American Ninja Warrior. Although Doug says American Nigerian Warrior because he struggles saying Ninja. “NIN-ja. With a N-i-n-j-a,” spells out Doug, who loves to spell and eagerly corrects other people’s spelling. 

Doug met my Ayrabelle collie girl back in December and he adored her. When she was injured in February, Doug prayed for her recovery every day. Now he adores my Maisie girl and begged to meet her this week.

Just LIVING Life Well

Douglas Bruce Leader exudes a blend of innocence and joy in all he does. Maybe that’s why we all value him so much. He speaks truth from the heart. Doug doesn’t get caught up in petty conversations. He never seems to worry about what others think. Doug just LIVES!

I wish we all could be friends with someone endearing like Doug. I wish we could all live with his exuberance and carefree spirit. Some days we just need someone to knock us out of our doldrums or toss away our pity party invitations for us. My friend Doug Leader is one of those friends. Shall I ask him to color a picture for you too?