Such an easy word to say. Well, sometimes. If you see some one who is homeless, do you smile and say, "Hi." Or do you look away? If you see someone who is in a wheelchair, do you smile and say, "Hi." Or do you look away? If you see someone who appears to be Developmentally Delayed, or mentally impaired; do you smile and say, "Hi." Or do you look away?
I know that it is uncomfortable to be presented with the impairments of others. I know that awkward feeling when all is right in your world, and you meet someone who does not have the same abilities or opportunities or fortunate circumstances as you; and you just don't know what to say. Before Ellie was born I was like you. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to say the wrong things, or do the wrong things and make anyone uncomfortable. So I just didn't say anything. I looked away, or somehow avoided the situation.
That cold, snowy day in December, 2 days after Ellie was born, when we first received the news that she might have Down Syndrome changed everything. All of the sudden I realized, in a very gut-wrenching way, that people with disabilities are. just. like. you. and. me. This beautiful, joyful, smiling baby wasn't someone that should be shunned. I don't know why it took being a parent to a child with disabilities to finally get it through my thick skull. It's not that I shunned people with disabilities before. I had worked at a local printing company that had a Goodwill Worksite and I would visit with the Goodwill employees in the cafeteria. I still remember Richard. He had a great work ethic and a great sense of humor. But outside of work, I didn't interact with people with disabilites.
I have sometimes wondered if Ellie's DS is some sort of sick pay-back for my overly frequent use of the R-word as a teenager. But then I remind myself that I don't think God is vindictive or mean or spiteful. Down Syndrome is just one of those crazy quirks of genetics - if you stop to think of the odds of having a child withOUT disabilities you get pretty bowled over.
But what happens when these cute kids who stay child-like so much longer than the rest of us, grow up? Are they accepted in society? Is there a place for them in our circle of friends? Is there a place for them in our church group? Is there a place for them on our softball league? How do they make connections and friends in the community at large? I wonder about Ellie's future as an adult. Will she make lasting friendships and connections with others or will she be alone? Being an eternal optimist, I try not to worry about this. I hope that the future will be bright for her and all of our kids.
So I found this website from British Columbia, Canada through a friend in the DS community. It's worth a look: Start With Hi.