When Brianna was born, there were a series of epiphanies that went off in my head, cascading like a row of firecrackers. It was a very special and transformational period for me in my life. I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my values and attitude, and what was important to me now and in the future.
It was kind of befuddling when I started to meet other parents of children with DS and they described their experience with some of the exact words and phrases that ran through my head. There was a connectedness in knowing my response was not a unique thought of Brad, but rather part of the fabric of the human experience. It wasn’t my response at all, but rather our response, as humans, just funneled through me as one piece of us. As crazy as that may sound, you come to such a conclusion when you have a thought that is so intimate and profound to you and then you hear parent after parent not only share your experience, but also articulate it in a way that you felt was unique to your lens as a human being.
Having Brianna also amplified feeling and thoughts I had before. One of those feelings has been how tremendously lucky I have been. I was born in the richest country in the world in a time of relative peace and prosperity. I was born to caring middle-class parents who raised me and equipped me with the tools to provide for myself and family – with a good education and a solid work ethic among others. I think of the dumb things I did in my youth with neither major injury nor criminal records to show for them. When Julianne was pregnant with Bri, she discussed the chances of having a child with a disability, and I scoffed. As if, I just happen to be lucky…not because I deserve it, but just because that is the theme of my life and I have developed a calloused confidence in its persistence. And of course the most adverse of outcomes ended up being the luckiest thing to ever happen to me.
These feelings came bubbling to the surface this past holiday season when I read an article about a young mother in Ohio. She was homeless with three children – one with Down syndrome – after a lifetime of abuse and neglect and one final swipe of indignity that left her without rent money. I felt for her because for all the luck I had in my life, the article painted a picture of someone who was equally unlucky – likely through little or no fault of her own.
I found the address of the woman and children’s shelter and sent her a letter – telling her I admired the drive and positive attitude she displayed in the article. I feel the DS community is a small community and we need to stick together if we want a better life for our children. I also wrote her a check – something I have never done for a stranger on the other side of our country. It wasn’t pity money; it was meant to help someone who I felt was showing some virtues in the face of adversity. It was me sharing a little of the luck I have received in abundance to someone who perhaps did not get her share yet. The article about Christine touched me, and so I felt compelled to equally touch her life.
Then, yesterday, I received a letter back from the charity, and attached was a note typed and signed by Christine. She had some of the kindest words I had ever been given. She told me I had changed her view on the world – that there were nice people. I inspired some hope and happiness. I was shocked by how appreciative she was. I was touched….how much more I had received from Christine than I can explain. Once again, how lucky I am! Thank you Christine, I wish you well as you move forward. Thank you Brianna for bringing me into this wonderful world!