Recently, my wife and I packed up the family for an afternoon of hiking and exploring in Helen, Ga. We could not have asked for a better day. The kids loved the hike, the weather was perfect and memories were made. After our hike we had dinner in Helen and we walked around the quaint little mountain tourist town.
My children are Ty (8), Karis (5), Katie (5), and Joy (22 months). Joy has Down Syndrome(DS). To be real honest this last detail about Joy is mostly irrelevant in our family.
To us she is just Joy.
She is a great blessing to all of us and rarely does her genetic condition affect us. This is so true that most of the time I forget she even has DS.
On our trip I had forgotten…
I walked with my older children, held my wife’s hand, and pushed little Joy in her stroller. As we ate ice cream and waited to get our balloon animals, a well meaning young lady looks at Joy and smiles and says to Charyl, “Aw, Is she a Down Syndrome?’’
It doesn’t take long to come back to the stinging reality that our little girl is different and when other people see her they notice Down syndrome and not Joy.
As we walked back to the car that afternoon I had some big old crocodile tears well up in my eyes. As a parent nothing hurts more than when you feel like others do not see the value in your children in the same way you do.
While the conversation was innocent and the young lady was kind, I could not help but feel pierced in the heart by her words, “Is she a Down syndrome?” To a person who does not have a child with special needs this question may seem completely innocent and appropriate but somewhere in the last 22 months I have become one of those overly sensitive parents. Please forgive me. This is not like me. I am not a particularly emotional or sensitive man. I rarely cry, in fact I see this as a flaw in my character that I do not feel things as deeply as others, but I have become very sensitive about Joy. I almost cry as I type this…because I can’t help but desire for people to see Joy as I see Joy. I want them to see HER and not her “Syndrome.” I want others to value her as I value her!
So, NO! She is not “A Down Syndrome.”
She is JOY!
She is made and crafted in the image of God.
She is valuable.
She is beautiful.
She loves to follow her sisters.
She loves to give hugs.
She has a smile that lights up the world.
She has siblings that can’t wait to get home from school to play with her.
She claps and cheers for everyone.
She wakes up happy.
She likes to help her daddy cook.
She is very opinioned and will not eat her carrots no matter how you try to sneak them in.
She is resilient.
She brings hope.
She is her mama’s heart!
She is her daddy’s heart!
Every life God creates carries the stamp of divinity. If we will take the time to get to know people we will be shocked by the beauty we can find in each soul.
I did not ask for, nor did a want to have a child with Down syndrome. It will always hurt my soul that Joy will struggle with simple things that typical children take for granted.
In spite of my desires God knew better than I did.
I am so thankful that God knows what is best for me when I don’t know how to ask. I am so thankful He brought JOY into my home.
God’ s greatest gifts are often disguised as presents we think we don’t want or don’t need.
When you see a family that has a child with special needs, if you desire to interact with them, ask the person’s name. Every person is more than their disability. Say an encouraging word. The family probably needs to hear it. Find something good you see in the person with disabilities and complement their ability. It may be as simple as saying, “You have a beautiful smile.” It may mean the world to that family. Be kind and considerate.