You know what I love?
All kinds of people. Short, tall, fat, skinny, young, old — all flavors of them. And I’ve always found it to be peculiar when I meet people who don’t like people. And who say it very bluntly: “I don’t like people. Dogs, yes. People, no.” I sympathize with them, of course.
Many of us are angry or hurt or annoyed or jaded by life experiences. Many have been surrounded by not-so-nice people. Many don’t give others a chance to be nice if they wanted to.
And it’s not like we all have to be these flaming extroverts with pom-poms cheering on Team Humanity. But there has to be some middle ground between being a cheerleader and wearing a shirt that says, “I hate everyone.” (As I saw the other day.)
In my short 30 years on this earth, I’ve found that life’s greatest purpose is a simple one: to love and be loved — which is just one more reason that having a child with Down syndrome is such a gift. And not just in the obvious way of Kate being an absolute bundle of joy — but in a more surprising way, one that I am learning as I go.
I’ve found that Kate connects me to others — complete strangers even — in a very special way. They smile more, watch more, and share more. They see our humanity and I, in turn, see theirs.
At my haircut on Tuesday I got a new girl who I had never met before — a bubbly, blonde, thirty-something-year-old who lives in the trendy part of town with her boyfriend. The conversation started as many salon convos do: gossip, beauty, etc. And then, somehow, it came up that I had a daughter with Down syndrome. The energy changed.
But it wasn’t in an awkward way — or an “I don’t know how to respond” way — it was a splash beneath the surface to a deeper place, a real place. Suddenly, we weren’t just client and stylist, we were people — and by the end of the hour, friends.
Soon I learned about her relationship, her family, her fears of infertility. I learned about her friend’s daughter who has Down syndrome, her struggles with faith, her longing to find a church to belong to. And when it was time to leave, there was a funny “Well, that was a deep conversation!” moment. And isn’t it funny how rare those are.
At lunch yesterday, a woman who had been eyeing Kate for a half hour finally came to chat with us. “Does she have Down syndrome?” she asked lovingly. I responded yes and she told us that after having three typically developing children, she and her husband had just adopted two girls from Ethiopia — both with Down syndrome. We talked about the blessings, the bravery, the joys.
In the hallway after lunch an older woman who had Dwarfism and who walked slowly with the help of a walker stopped to flirt with Kate. “Hi cutie,” she said. Kate smiled coyly and hid behind my back. Their connection made my heart swell.
And so these stories continue — time after time, person after person. And really, I never think about Kate having Down syndrome or a “special need.” I never think about it as a disability or a cross to bear. And as I was telling another mom just yesterday — in another one of these meaningful conversations — sometimes I am taken aback when I sense a sympathy or pity from people.
“Oh,” I realize, “You think this is a negative thing.” But then I remember, I would’ve thought the same thing before I met her — before she blessed our lives — and the lives of so many.
When we think about the value of people — just imagine if we truly measured a successful life by those who love and are loved the best. That 90% statistic would drop to zero. That prenatal diagnosis would be like winning the lottery.
So yes, I love people — especially the three little ones who call me mama, who teach me the true meaning of love each and every day.
“We were created to love and be loved.” – Mother Teresa