Experience is the best way to understanding.
So I will tell you of an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world because of the understanding it has given me.
I am fortunate to have grown up with a brother who has Down syndrome.
While it’s hard to accurately convey what I mean by this, I will try. I think most people expect to hear of bitterness and upset. They expect to hear that life was difficult and now that he is an adult, it is even more difficult.
As a sibling to someone with Down syndrome, I find that I’m better off than the rest of the world in terms of empathy and understanding because I’ve lived it. I know the joy that comes in knowing and loving someone who has Down syndrome, in knowing how he has changed my life, in understanding the way his mind works and the simplistic priorities that compose his life.
I have gained an understanding of life that will never be attained by those who close themselves off to people who are different from themselves. I have learned to embrace the simple, to love the unlovely, and to strive towards depositing joy in others’ lives.
That’s what Jonathan does.
He doesn’t stress out over money or bills. He doesn’t worry about what people think about him or being up with the current fashions. He doesn’t lash out at people because life didn’t turn out the way he expected.
He finds joy in the most unlikely of places. He loves on those others might turn their nose up to. And though he has rough days just like you and me, he knows how to bounce back from them with a much more pleasant countenance then I ever exhibit.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being a sibling of someone with Down syndrome is when you recognize those in life who will never take the time to embrace the love someone like Jonathan wants to give. It is inevitable that there will be those who are too busy, too self-obsessed, or simply too ignorant to recognize the beauty that this incredible group of people possess.
I am far from perfect, but Jonathan reminds me that life isn’t about striving for perfection. It is about loving others more than you love yourself. It is about embracing the good things of this world and turning from the bad. It is about looking at seemingly hopeless situations and making them hopeful.
World Down Syndrome Day is a ridiculously big deal to me. These are the people we should be aspiring to be more like. These are the people who understand the goodness of life. They are the ones where love, hope, and joy can be found.
I strive daily to face my world through their eyes.