A couple of months ago a friend of a friend on Facebook posted this photo which I saw and loved. I want all fathers (and mothers, for that matter) to find a memorial somewhere with these kinds of affirming words on it and pose your own kids next to the words as a declaration of developing character and a celebration of God’s images being reflected in them. (I can be bossy.) A brief interaction with the father of this young man prompted my remembering of Karin and then others…and eventually turned into this blog post which sat half-written for all this time.
Karin (and her two siblings) became my friends back in the 70′s when my family live in the suburbs of Chicago. To the best of my recollection, she was my first friend with Down syndrome. I learned a lot from her in those years when our lives intersected — and a lot from her family.
Let the record show, please, that I was not Karin’s friend because she didn’t really like chocolate and tended to give away her best Halloween candy — though I did benefit by her lack of affection for sweets. And someday remind me to tell you of the epic practical joke that involved Karin, her siblings, my mother, a piano and a large stuffed rabbit saved from the curb on trash day.
One of the things I loved about Karin was her enthusiastic affection. Being reunited at church on a Sunday morning after a week of being apart was an event worthy of celebration. Relationships should be more like that.
The summer after I completed 8th grade I had my first job working for the Illinois Bus Company as a bus captain on a Monday-Friday route which transported children to and from Handi-Camp. While I’m not a huge fan of the camp’s name, I am a fan of the program which served dozens of children and their families. The second girl on my route had Down syndrome and she was one of three of “my kids” who partnered with me to keep the other kids on the bus safe. And me sane.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the joy of being included in the circle of friends of people with Down Syndrome. My life is richer because of them.