This month is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Children and adults with Down Syndrome have greatly influenced my life. I celebrate this month. The purpose of Down Syndrome Awareness Month is as follows: “to raise public awareness of this common disorder and advocate for acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome.” I will return to my previous statement: I celebrate this month. Krista was born into our family and took us by surprise. We had no sonogram informing us in advance of her condition. When Krista was born my father called me and my sister into the living room and made the following statement: “Your sister was born with something called Down Syndrome. Your mother will need our support. The Dr. said just to raise her like we raised you two (my sister and me.)” That was the end of the speech. Karen and I were a bit shell-shocked. I felt helpless as I ran to my room and played “Abbey Road” as loud as I could. I learned about DS in biology class. Many at that time still called these children mongoloid. Not a whole lot was known about how to education or to care for these children. It was a paragraph in the textbook. I learned in college that their life expectancy was around 25 years of age. I remember leaving that lecture weeping for my sister. She is now 48 years old.
So what did we do? Mom and Dad raised her just like they raised me and my sister, Karen. She had crooked teeth? She got braces. She was interested in music? She took piano lessons and violin lessons. We went to a restaurant? She ordered from the menu. It took Krista longer to process information and her milestones came later, but when they came they weren’t milestones….they were huge victories! So why do I celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness? My sister changed my life. I dedicated my career to serve in the area of special education. Krista doesn’t meet a stranger. She loves all she meets. She doesn’t know what it means to hate. She introduces her family to everyone she meets, including the waitress at a fast food restaurant. She is the first to offer her hand to greet someone with a handshake. When she feels the need to pray, she prays, no matter where she is or who is around her. She believes that everyone is beautiful and that they are important. She has had great accomplishments including being featured in a national publication and serving on a board of directors.
This year a precious baby with Down Syndrome was to bless our extended family. Unfortunately, that baby was stillborn. This baby has already touched so many lives even though they never knew him on this side of heaven. This family will never be the same. They have lived out James 1:17 that states “Every good and perfect gift is from above” and indeed this child was perfect. He is perfect. He was perfect because his parents, his grandparents, his cousins and aunts and uncles all saw him through the eyes of Christ. God’s vision is perfect.
Every child and adult that I have had the privilege of working with that has Down Syndrome has blessed my life. I have celebrated the achievements. I have laughed with them at their jokes. I have worked with teachers that poured their hearts out to accomplish tiny goals with their students. I have shared tears with parents that were tired or frustrated. All have inspired me. They have caused me to compose music and write poetry. They have enabled me to look deep inside myself to see my imperfections. I always home back after reflecting saying….”I want what they have!” That is why I celebrate.