Our parish has what I’ve heard other parents proclaim as The Best VBS in Town. As a result, our already pretty big parish has a very large VBS, which means lots of folks I don’t know. Or perhaps the reason I don’t know them is because we are the weirdo freak family that has only been to the 11:00 Mass that most families go to like, once…(7:00 am, anyone?)
What was my point? Oh, that’s right. Strangers at VBS. So I picked up Sarah Kate on Tuesday and was about to load Nathan in the car when a lady who was driving past me in the parking lot stopped and squealed out her window. I honestly don’t remember what she said exactly, but her tone expressed delight and she told me she had a sister (niece? cousin? Sadly, I’ve forgotten that part, too…) – “with Down syndrome” was implied.
I carried Nathan over to her and she gushed a little and squeezed him a lot. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve already forgotten most of the details – her name, her family member’s name, and even what she said – because these types of incidents are not all that uncommon. We chatted a sec and then waved goodbye and I might never see her again (or she may be my neighbor, who knows?)
No big deal.
On Wednesday afternoon, I was debating what to post about today. I’ve been struggling for the past several weeks about what to write, because I’ve grown weary of the impassioned pleas (The R-word! Prenatal Testing!) and I think our family life is pretty ordinary and not all that worthy of a daily rundown. (By the way, why DO you guys read this blog?) So I decided to go back and see what I was blogging in June of last year.
Nathan’s IDSC-captioned photo that went viral on Facebook.
The number of shares of that photo since last June is over 43,000, and people were still commenting on a fairly regular basis as late as January of this year. I read back through what I had written about my reaction to the photo and how it didn’t really phase me (still true), which then led me to scan through the comments people had put forward. I recalled how so many people thought he was a girl (!) and how plenty of others had a knee-jerk reaction, assuming that the photo was put out by rabid right-wingers (not true), and still others claimed that Nathan was being exploited.
But lots of folks had other things to say. They commented on how cute he was, how beautiful he was, how sweet he was, and the like. They mentioned their own friends and family members with Down syndrome. There were virtual hugs and squeals all over the place.
Kinda like that lady in the parking lot…and everywhere else.
Lots of cliches exist – “they’re so loving” and all that jazz. Frankly, I get tired of just the word “special” – especially in that most hated of sayings, “God only gives special children to special people” – because it’s so loaded and not really accurate. But people with Down syndrome DO have a little something special about them that typical people don’t have. Something, that is, other than an extra chromosome.
My son has the power to peel back the layers and reveal the true person inside. The way someone reacts to him tells me everything I need to know about their hearts.
If you haven’t seen the video I’ve linked below, please carve seven minutes out of your day to watch it. Mute the music if you want, but don’t miss the message. Baby Christian doesn’t have Down syndrome, but he has a little something special, too.