His gaze catches you from across the room. One eyebrow raises slightly as a half smile forms on the corner of his mouth. You respond with a little smile, as at first you're not secure with the fact that his eyes are on you. But as he moves closer, and his eyes brighten and smile widens, you feel confident that he is making his way exactly to you. Arms outstretched, his little squishy hands reach around your neck and squeeze ever so tightly. His little body melts into your chest, and as he lays there for 20 seconds, patting your back, the stress of your day, agenda of what's ahead, and any hardness you acquired in that day, leaves you. You are left feeling loved, cherished, and warm.
This is the perfect description of how one hug from our little two-year-old with down syndrome leaves you feeling. Our Lukey is not always happy, nor are other children with down syndrome. They have moods, and tantrums, and strong opinions, like all children. But I truly believe in my heart that they are given the gift of spreading love, more so than you and I with typical chromosomes are able. Their calling and purpose in this world is equal to, if not greater, then the calling for all the rest of us. Don't get me wrong, we their caretakers definitely have a special purpose, but I promise you that they teach us way more than we teach them. I have witnessed him brighten up so many days, whether he's been reaching across the sales counter to hug the clerk, leaping out of my arms to hug the scruffy air conditioning repair man, or demanding that our priest stops to receive a hug after mass. It's as if he senses when somebody needs to feel loved, in that moment. I have seen him bring tears to strangers.
As parents and advocates of Luke, we definitely fight for him to have equal opportunities and rights, as our typical children do. But I for one definitely acknowledge that there are some differences. And that's all they are. Not better, or worse. His cognitive delay is nothing we look negatively upon. Our other six children embrace him for his uniqueness, and acknowledge the sacredness of his life, equal to our own. We have all developed supernatural patience with him, that we did not know was possible. His life drives selfishness out of our individual lives, which again, is such a gift.
Please embrace children with special needs, and teach others to do so. Encourage life when a prenatal diagnosis is made, and offer support when needed. Our world needs to not label these children as burdens, but rather embrace them as the greatest gifts...I hope that you meet our Luke someday, to experience his warm embrace.