Monday, March 21, 2011

World Down Syndrome Day 2011

Today is World Down Syndrome Day and it has left me with a lot of thoughts and emotions running through my mind and heart… As I shared here, up until very recently I was afraid of Down syndrome. When there were other kids at camp with Down syndrome or whenever I saw someone with Down syndrome at the grocery store, at a restaurant, etc. I would do my best to avoid them. I wasn’t mean-spirited, I was just so awkward and uncomfortable around people with special needs that for some reason that I still don’t understand, I actually felt afraid. I am embarrassed, ashamed to admit that but I know that I am not the only one who has ever felt that way so I want to be honest.

God has been gradually changing my heart over the past couple of years, especially over the past six months, but it was only recently that I realized just how much He has changed me. A couple of months ago I read an article entitled, Will babies with Down syndrome slowly disappear? which discussed a new safe, fast and reliable prenatal test for Down syndrome which could lead to the extinction of Down syndrome altogether. Tears spilled from my eyes as I read the article, absolutely heartbroken. Of course I was heartbroken for the babies who would never have a chance at life but there was more to it than that. I was heartbroken for our society as a whole and all that we would be missing out on if we lived in a world without Down syndrome. Children and adults with Down syndrome are truly a gift from God. With their joy, their love, their compassion, their innocence they have so much to give, so much to teach us. Where would we as a society be if we “terminated” their existence in our world? The thought of it alone brings tears to my eyes.

A few days after the article came out, one mother of a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome posted a response: one hundred pictures speaking one hundred thousand words about the beauty and the value of these precious individuals with that one extra special chromosome. As I watched her video, I felt what was left of the wall around my heart shatter. Every remaining ounce of fear, discomfort, misunderstanding and prejudice washed away. I sat weeping in front of my computer, telling God how sorry I was for the times that I gotten it all wrong and begging Him for the privilege of parenting such a child. Yes, I was begging God for the privilege to be a mother to a child with Down syndrome. Just a few years ago, I was terrified at the thought of giving birth to child with Down syndrome or any other special need, convinced that I couldn’t “handle” something like that. Today, I can honestly say that I would be deeply disappointed if God never gives me a child with that extra special chromosome.

The ‘slogan’ so-to-speak for Reece’s Rainbow special needs adoption ministry is “Because every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome…” The first time I read that I thought, “Wow, what a great slogan – cute, catchy and powerful…” Now, not only do I think that it’s cute, catchy and powerful… I believe it’s true.

I don’t know where you’re at today. Maybe you’ve always had a heart and a love for people with special needs and have never had any problems seeing them for the beautiful blessings that they are. Or maybe you’re like I once was, uncomfortable and even fearful for reasons you can’t explain. No matter who you are, I would like to invite you to watch Patti’s video below. Then, today, on World Down Syndrome Day, would you set aside a few minutes to pray? Pray for the children around the world who are waiting for families, despised and rejected simply because they have Down syndrome. Pray for the parents who will be told today that their baby or unborn child has Down syndrome and experience all the fear and uncertainty that come with such a diagnosis. Pray for the children and their families who are living with Down syndrome along with the stigma, ignorance and prejudice that they encounter on a regular basis. Last but not least, let’s pray for ourselves and the world that we live in, that God would open our eyes before its too late.

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