I love this design, I really do. I found it on Cafe Press today after hearing this past weekend at the Buddy Walk that they had some neat stuff for Down syndrome awareness (cerebral palsy is represented, as well). The funny thing about it is that lately I’ve been thinking about differences. My stepmother recently read “Another Season” by Gene Stallings, which is the famous coach’s story of raising his son, John Mark, who had Down syndrome. Mr. Andi and I both have copies of the book – given to us separately by different people after Nathan was born – but neither of us have read it yet.
Being from Alabama (although I am a graduate of Auburn, the U of A’s chief rival), I knew long before Nathan was born who John Mark Stallings was. John Mark was a well-known figure during the time that his father was the football coach at the University of Alabama, and two facilities at the University of Alabama as well as the football field at Faulkner University are named for him. He was awarded a national championship ring following the 1992 football season. Contrary to what the “experts” said, John Mark did not damage his father’s career, but was well-loved by many and also served as a catalyst that helped propel his high profile father to advocate on behalf of people with developmental disabilities.
I don’t remember a whole lot of what my stepmother said to me about the book (I knew I was going to read it so I just didn’t file those details away), but one thing she said struck me: Gene Stallings had four daughters, in addition to John Mark, and she had no idea. Hmph. I didn’t know that either. How could we not have known that? Oh, that’s right. Because John Mark was different. I’m sure the Stallings daughters are lovely women, but I couldn’t name a single one of them. I doubt that many Alabamians could, but everyone knows who John Mark was.
John Mark touched thousands – possibly millions – of people in big and small ways during his 46 years with us. He didn’t go to Harvard law, or win a gold medal, or sell a multi-platinum album. He wasn’t an elected official, or a movie star, or a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was a man with Down syndrome who lived an exceptional life because his parents believed in him and loved him. John Mark made a difference – not in spite of being different, but because he was different.
For more on John Mark and the Stallings family, check out this Dateline story: