Because of how awful Jono was when he was born, his parents made the difficult choice to give him up for adoption shortly after he was born. But there was one woman who, despite the reality that she had no plans to become a mother again, jumped at the opportunity to take him in. Now 36 years old, he works hard to make the world more compassionate through his work in the community.
When Jono Lancaster was born, his parents decided to keep him at the hospital instead of taking him home. They couldn’t love him since he was diagnosed with a rare condition known as Treacher-Collins syndrome. This condition impacts a person’s facial structure and hearing ability. They did not want to endure the torture of going to the hospital regularly and, most likely, endure surgical procedures because of the syndrome.
Jono had only been born for a few days when those who were supposed to love and care for him without conditions gave up on him for good.
In the days that followed, social services did everything they could to place him with a family who would better fit him. Jono was fortunate to meet an angel who appeared in the form of a caring and compassionate woman named Jean. She instantly sensed that he should be hers when she focused on him.
“How could you not love a child?” she said after hearing his story. “When can I take him home?” was the next question she asked.
When Jono first told the story of his life, it was in 2015 at the Breakthrough Conference by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), and it caught the attention of many.
“I was born with a genetic condition that affects my facial features. I have no cheekbones, and so my eyes dip down,” he said. “I love my little ears; they don’t get cold at night. But I do need hearing aids. I’m one of the lucky ones. More severely affected individuals need help with feeding and breathing. I met some kids who’ve had more than 70 surgeries to correct problems that would make their lives easier.”
Jono makes the following statement about Jene, the woman who gave him a warm and welcoming place to call home:
“Jean adopted me on May 18, 1990 – so I get two birthdays!” he said. “I used to tell other kids that my mom went to the hospital and looked at all the babies and chose me, whereas their parents had been stuck with them.”
Jean made numerous attempts to get in touch with Jono’s birth parents, but each time she did so, she was met with the same response: they were strongly opposed to having any relationship with him, including meeting him in person.
Because of his looks, Jono, now 36 years old, was the target of various types of bullying for the better part of his life.
“When I became a teen, I began to think, why me? That snowballed into thinking about my birth parents. Parents are supposed to love you no matter what, even if you rob a bank. How would I ever have a family? Who will want me?” he said. “I started to hate my face. I became aggravated at not being able to change the way I looked. I avoided looking at my reflection, even in windows walking down the street. I was ashamed of the way I looked.”
After that, however, something took place that helped him recover his former confidence in himself.
When he worked as a bartender, everyone looked at him curiously and commented on how he seemed dressed. But one day, a customer who looked tough and had “muscles on top of muscles” entered the place. This person was referred to as a “skinhead.” While everyone else refused, Jono was willing to serve him.
“Before you get my drink, I have a question. What’s up with your face?” the man said.
“I was born with Treacher Collins syndrome.” The man responded with, “all right.” Then Jono added, “I’m deaf,” and showed him his hearing aids. “Do they come with an off switch?” the man asked. “Damn, you’re lucky. I have a wife; all she does is talk 24/7, and to be able to switch her yakking off….”
Someone laughed with Jono compared to laughing at him for the first time in a while. That jogged his memory of his need to “focus on the good.”
Nowadays, he is married and has a career as an inspirational speaker. Jono makes it a point to spend time with young children with the same syndrome as he does and assists them in accepting who they are without making any changes to their appearance.
“So what’s changed?” he said. “People are still the same. My parents still want nothing to do with me. What’s changed is my attitude, and that’s so powerful. Instead of allowing negative energy to bring me down, I believe in myself. I wouldn’t change any of it. My attitude was more disabling than anything. With the right attitude, you can achieve anything.”
We can’t express how happy it makes us that this man found out how to accept and cherish himself just as he is.
I would appreciate it if you would share this story on Facebook with your loved ones.
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