I love eating out. Doesn’t happen very often but when it does, I’m extremely happy. Not only because it means that I don’t have to cook, but I enjoy “sharing” my meal with people of all walks of life even if I’ve never seen them before that day, and in addition to that I get to enjoy whatever specialty the restaurant is offering.
I would however have to admit that I would very much enjoy a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the US just to pay a visit to Tim’s Place. Keith and Jeannie Harris had four sons but when their son Tim was born they were greeted with news no parent likes to hear. Their son Tim had Down Syndrome. Hearing the news was almost too much to bear and as Keith related, “my world went black”, and I couldn’t help but wonder what my response would’ve been as well.
While the family adjusted to having a child with special needs, Tim began to grow into a wonderful young man who began to share his dreams and aspirations. When he was 13 he told his father that he wanted to own a restaurant and he never once waivered in his desire. He took his education very seriously and after completing high school, he went onto college where he graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a degree in food service and office skills. Let me just pause here to say that for Tim to get to this place had to take some very good and skillful parenting. When children at whatever age or whatever level go on to achieve their goals and dreams, many forget that raising a child and helping them to come to that place takes good parenting. That is why it hurts and angers me both at the same time when parents sentence their disabled children to “never being able to achieve anything”. It’s one thing to cry and be in shock upon hearing the initial news of having to deal with and raise a special needs child, but at some point the reality that there is a child to raise and help achieve their potential has to kick in.
Even surrounding yourself with persons who share the same experiences and professionals who have your child’s well-being at heart is a major and significant step since this signifies your desire to see your child move on from being just a child with a disability to someone who has potential.
Now let’s get back to Tim. He went on to open his restaurant which is known for serving “Breakfast, Lunch and Hugs”. He has a staff including one of his brothers and his business is known for serving and dishing out good meals and good relationships.
Since opening the restaurant in 2010, he has not only grown and developed even more, but has been an inspiration for both the disabled and able-bodied as he is the only known person with Down Syndrome in the US to open a restaurant.
His parents say that they have always sought to help him live a life of independence just like their other three sons. What fuelled this as well was the fact that he was determined to open his business and he never lost sight of this vision.
Tim’s dad also went on to make a statement which I wished many parents would embrace. He said: “Our philosophy as a family was to push the envelope as much as we could toward independence, so that one day when my wife and I are no longer in the picture, Tim will be settled and have his own life.”
Tim is also a gold medal-winning Special Olympian, a sailor and fisherman, motivational speaker and now added to that — entrepreneur. As for the hugs which are also served daily, a “hug counter” on the diner’s website shows 32,475 squeezes given out — with more to come. Tim believes that when people receive hugs that they generally feel better, especially if they were feeling down and out before entering the restaurant.
There are many lessons to be learnt but the two which I think are really important are that parental support can never be emphasised enough. It is so important that we encourage and validate our children because it fuels and propels them into greatness. The other thing is that because of that support, Tim was able to find purpose in his life and live it to the fullest!
Tim said: “I do not let my disability crush the dream. People with disabilities can do anything they set their mind to. We’re special. We are a gift to the world.”
What a gift he truly is to the world. May he continue to follow his dreams and gain more personal and professional success. We’re very proud of you Tim. Keep aiming high!