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Spiritual Roadtrip, John Napotnik

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Eric is a special man, born thirty-three years ago with Down Syndrome.

By Michael Heath /

Spiritual Roadtrip by John Napotnik
Spiritual Roadtrip, John Napotnik

How do people learn the art of mindfulness? Some take yoga lessons or learn meditation. Others simply take long hikes through the woods, connecting with nature. There are those who seek guidance from a guru or religious leader, while many read books of contemporary experts or ancient sages.

In the case of author John Napotnik, the moving force of his spiritual journey has been in witnessing the expressions of love and understanding that come from his son Eric. The story is told in the book Spiritual Road Trip.

Eric is a special man, born 33 years ago with Down Syndrome. Many people might believe that such a condition would cause Eric to be overshadowed by his two star-athlete brothers. Such family dynamics could relegate him to an afterthought, even a burden. No one told that to Eric. He instead became Justin’s and John’s biggest fan and inspiration. It was not enough that Eric attended every game of the of the outstanding quarterback and tailback who lead Sharpesville High School to its only state championship.

With a sunny demeanor, he naturally transferred joy and kept their spirits up, even when things looked bleak. In cases where his presence was not enough to set a joyous mood, he would say "happy face.” That always caused a smile to cross the mouth of either brother. Even the local paper recognized Eric’s enthusiasm and encouragement when they gave him the Johnny Pepe Award for supporting athletes.

Hugging is something that Eric does frequently. He wants people to express that special connection between two human beings and feel accepted. Once, while on vacation in Coconut Creek, Florida, Eric’s family visited a restaurant for brunch. After ordering and a short wait, all the food came out except Eric’s. While many people would use this slight as a trigger to complain, Eric leaped from his seat and gave the apologizing waitress a hug. When the woman returned from the kitchen to explain that she should have known that hamburgers were not offered during brunch, she got something she did not expect: another hug! To Eric it was all an honest mistake and no big deal. He was okay with simply ordering something else.

John Napotnick has many tales to tell about the man who often enlightens him and others. In his book, he shares how Eric is more than a son and brother; he is a teacher.

To Purchase Spiritual Roadtrip go to

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