Normally, we like to keep things light-hearted and fun here on CCE, but I was reading through various blogs last night after my girls went to bed and I ran across a post that spoke right to my heart and it inspired me to address this topic. You can find the post here on Life's Little Surprises. Shannon is a mother to a beautiful little girl who has Down syndrome and she wrote about the moment when you tell someone that your child has Down syndrome and you are met with pity and sadness, as though you've just announced that your child has a terminal illness.
A few years ago, I made an appointment with a new hair stylist and we were making typical salon small talk when she asked about my family. I told her that I have an older sister who has Down syndrome and she said "Oh - I'm sorry!"
I didn't announce that my sister just passed away. I said that she has Down syndrome! That comment hurt me and haunted me for days (it is obviously still with me) and I never returned to that salon. That wasn't the first nor only time in my life that I was met with an attitude of pity or sympathy when I informed someone that I have a sister with Down syndrome, but it was perhaps the most blatant.
And the thing is that this woman wasn't trying to offend me. Her comment was spoken out of ignorance. I've since realized that one of the most important callings that I have received in my life is to inform people that life with Down syndrome is a beautiful, purposeful, and abundant life worth living.
I struggle with how to articulate this message. In March, I wrote a guest blog post on A Perfect Lily and I said:
... I firmly believe that God creates people with disabilities to offer the rest of us a prism to view life as He intended us to view it; stripped of all materialism and superficiality. Those of us who are lucky enough to get to look through this prism are forever changed...I hope (and truly believe) that anyone who encounters Leanne or Josie is relieved of ignorant misconceptions about Down syndrome and that those misconceptions are replaced by an appreciation for the value that Leanne and Josie bring to this world.
You can find the rest of the post here.
My sister influenced my life in such a positive way that I decided to adopt a baby with Down syndrome. My sister influenced my husband's life in such a positive way that he wanted to adopt a baby with Down syndrome.
So in response to that stylist and everyone else who is inclined to bestow pity upon me, I say,
I'm sorry that you haven't had the opportunity to experience the incredible contributions that individuals with Down syndrome make to this world.
I will spend the rest of my life trying to communicate this message. If everyone was fortunate enough to experience the beauty that Leanne and Josie bring to our lives, it would undoubtedly make this world would be a better place.