We live in a world where success is about getting ahead and trying not to stand out too much. Because if you don’t fit in or are a little different from others, you’re considered “strange” or “abnormal.”
It’s a sad view of life, and it puts too much emphasis on how we look and how we compare to our peers.
Just ask Jono Lancaster, a person who’s flesh and blood just like the rest of us, but, unfortunately, has often been painfully reminded of just how cruel the world can be.
Jono was born in the UK in 1985, but he didn’t look like other babies.
He had Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that caused his facial bones to develop in an asymmetrical way.
It was too much for Jono’s parents, who abandoned him just because of the way he looked.
“When I was born, my parents were in total shock. I was out of the hospital 36 hours after I was born. Social services found someone to look after me. The foster carer was a lady called Jean,” Jono recounted at the 2015 Nord Conference.
A wonderful woman named Jean Lancaster adopted Jono and raised him. But Jono’s early years were marked by bullying and a reluctance from the outside world to show understanding.
When Jono went to school, he started to become aware of himself. He quickly understood that he looked different from his classmates.
“I kind of felt like I was on my own and I felt like I was the only one out in the world that was like me. People are lucky enough to win the lottery or they become professional footballers, doctors, lawyers but I thought, ‘Why did I have to end up looking like this?'” Jono said in an interview with Adelaide Now.
It’s important to now that Treacher Collins syndrome doesn’t affect a child’s intelligence in any way. The only thing Jono’s bullies cared about was the way he looked. His tormentors used to run away and pull faces at him saying they did not want to catch his “disease.”
“I used to hide how unhappy I was from my mom. She had already done so much for me,” he told the BBC in an interview.
Jono refused to give up and let the bullies win, though, and by his side, he had a wonderful woman.
Jono’s foster mother, Jean, tried to reunite him with his biological parents. But after they returned her letters for five straight years, she took the next step — and adopted Jono on May 18, 1990.
“So I get two birthdays! I used to tell other kids that my mom went to the hospital and she looked at all the babies and she chose me, whereas their parents had been stuck with them,” Jono said at the 2015 Nord Conference.
As a teenager, Jono became very rebellious. Sometimes, he would do things only to draw attention. It was a way for him to deter people from the real problem: his physical features. He drank a lot of alcohol and tried to bribe people with sweets so they would like him.
“I was feeling so alone.”
But with love and care from Jean, and his own strong spirit, Jono soon decided to be a force for good and use his experience to help others.
Now 34 years old, Jono devotes his life to helping others around the world with Treacher Collins syndrome. He has been working as a team leader for adults with autism.
He meets children, gives them hope and support, and talks to their parents about their situation. Currently, Jono works as an inspirational teacher, often talking about Treacher Collins syndrome.
“My parents still want nothing to do with me,” he says. “What’s changed is my attitude, and that’s what’s so powerful. […] I wouldn’t change any of it. My attitude was more disabling than anything. With the right attitude, you can achieve anything.”
One of Jono’s mentees is two-year-old Zackary Walton from Australia.
Despite his young age, Zackary has already been bullied. In Jono, however, he has had a friend for life.
“When he said he was coming to Australia, we knew we had to meet him and it’s made us so happy to see Zack meet someone like him,” the boy’s mother, Sarah Walton, told Adelaide Now.
When Jono and Zackary met for the first time in November 2014, this picture was posted on Facebook — and it’s just so lovely to see.
Hear Jono tell his story in the video below. I promise, it won’t leave you untouched.
See the clip here:
Although Jono’s story is heartbreaking, it’s also incredibly uplifting to see his strength and courage and how he uses it to help other children in the same situation.
I really hope we can help Jono’s story get more attention. Not just to inspire others, but also to give hope and confidence to others who need it. Because we all need some inspiration now and then.
No one should ever be judged, bullied, or discriminated against because of their appearance! Share this article if you agree!