Warning: This is a tear-jerker. At least for me. It is presumptuous to assume it will jerk your tears. Just don't say you weren't warned. The month of October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. I have two dear friends from college who are sisters. Their sister, Laura, has Down Syndrome. Over the years, I have heard many a touching (and hi-LA-rious) tale about Laura.
The whole family is funny, Laura might be the funniest. Because we never lived close, I haven't spent a lot of time with Laura but boy I loved the interactions I did have.
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month, I asked my friends to tell me some things they have learned from Laura and here is what they had to say:
- Being transparent about our weaknesses and needs invites people to be themselves. There are few people I will sing and dance in the car with besides Laura!
- I can make goals with accountability and without shame. I find it difficult to honestly share my desire to read my Bible more regularly or lose weight because I am embarrassed of drawing attention to my failures. When Laura sets or meets her goal of looking both ways in a parking lot (or not picking her scabs) everyone is informed and can celebrate with her. That's awesome.
- It is our reaction to a gift that often causes others to be eager to give generously. Laura's birthday is a time to celebrate her but also to anticipate her joy in receiving gifts. Except that one time she received a cell phone case that she very vocally and dramatically disliked. (Emily adds: I saw that particular reaction on video. It was basically priceless.)
- Genuine care that is not inhibited by fear of awkwardness speaks deeply to others. Just ask the guy in the wheelchair at church how much more he prefers the hugs from Laura every week compared to the apprehensive interactions with "normal" people. Or our uncle with brain damage who says there is no one else he'd rather play Wii bowling with...
- Simple things are most important in life. Like hours spent playing UNO sipping Mocha Frappuccino Lights. Time spent doing nothing in particular with people you love are what you miss the most when you live far away.
- Get creative, if you must, to get your point across. For example, don't be afraid to call an ankle a "foot wrist" if it feels right.
- What and who we pray for reflects the depths of our hearts. Even years after my grandpa died, Laura was still praying about it. She also prays a great deal for the cat.
- When recording your calories burned after an hour on a treadmill, don't lean on the accelerate button. What I wouldn't give to have been there to witness Laura thrown across the room and under a chair... we never did find the pencil that went flying!
- The beauty of simplicity and inhibition in worship. I'm convinced that before the throne of the Lord in eternity, when we are made whole, I will be made more like Laura and she will be made less like me. (Emily adds: annnnd here come the waterworks.)
Just wanted to share one more resource: noahsdad.com is a website of a friend who has a child, Noah, with Down Syndrome. He and his wife have done a lot get the word out that people with Down Syndrome are just that: people. They are refreshing and wonderful and we can stand to learn a lot from them. Stepping off my soap box now.