World Down Syndrome Day 2015 – Thank You for Helping Me See A World of Possibility
Standing next to a table piled high with books was a young boy with hair the color of warm sand and a big friendly voice. He was talking to me about the purchases he wanted to make at the school’s book fair. I was grateful for the company. After awhile, I asked him his name and introduced myself.
“I’m Mrs. Shupe, Sofia’s mom.” Recognition flickered in his eyes and without skipping a beat, he told me, “I really like Sofia. She’s nice.” Then, he paused and leaned in close to say, “I feel bad for her, though, because she has Down syndrome. And…you know…she can’t do things.”
Sofia is the first child at this school with Down syndrome and her classmates are just getting to know her. For many of them, it’s their first chance at having the privilege of knowing someone with an extra chromosome.
My young friend’s eyes squinted in concern over having possibly offended me. “You know what,” I told him. “I just read an article about a young man and a young woman who have Down syndrome and are going to college. Isn’t that great! There are a number of people like Sofia who go on to college or to work in lots of different ways.” Surprised, he just looked at me and then at Sofia, who was now standing behind me. “Wow,” he said. Then, he smiled, paid for his books and ran off down the hall.
Talking with a third grader about what having an extra chromosome means is often easier than talking with another adult, I’ve found. But as an adult, I myself have learned so much from this journey with my daughter.
I’ve learned that although expectations can be a good thing at times, quite often, they are simply limiting. And…
Letting go of expectations often opens the door to a world of possibility.
My understanding of what Sofia can do and might do in the future has changed dramatically over the years. I’m ashamed to say that when she was born, I carried around assumptions that limited what I thought possible for her. I’m blown away by the many times I’ve witnessed what I never thought was a possibility come to life before my eyes.
Sofia has regularly swept away ideas I’ve held over what is possible. Recently, I was surprised to hear that the Spanish teacher was thrilled with Sofia’s progress. I don’t even speak Spanish. And it’s a darn good thing that her big brother does or I wouldn’t be able to translate her schoolwork.
Today is World Down Syndrome Day and to celebrate I’ve put together a compilation of some of the most hopeful and inspiring stories I’ve read this year. These very talented and wonderfully unique individuals have made me look at my own life through new eyes – eyes that look to possibility, not limitations. Eyes that are hopeful for the future.
Enjoy the list. They’ll surprise and inspire you. I promise.
Meet Zach and Ali, two young people going to college and working to better themselves…
And Rebecca, a remarkable young lady, who is going to school to become a caregiver.
Meet Tim, a young man, who is an entrepreneur and restaurateur…
And Austin & Jessica, who after being best friends for 30 years, fell in love and tied the knot.
These people, like Sofia, have not only taught me to look beyond my ‘expectations’ for my daughter, but to look at my own life and question the limitations I’ve somehow grown to accept.
Rather than saying, “I can’t” or “It’s too late.” I’m learning to ask, “Why not? What’s to lose?”
A bighearted thank you to those of you with an extra chromosome. I owe a debt of gratitude to you for helping me see my life in a new way – one of possibility.