Madam Speaker, World Down Syndrome Day, which was this last Sunday, is a day to recognize and celebrate people with Down syndrome. Children born with an extra 26th chromosome causing Down syndrome face physical and mental challenges and often require surgery for heart defects or hearing obstructions.
One story of Down Syndrome which has touched my life is that of my dear friends Rob and Jacki, who wanted to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. They literally searched the world over. Eventually, they found a little boy in Bulgaria. Timmy was 30 months old and weighed 20 pounds. Rob and Jacki knew he was the missing son they had searched for. Thirty-five thousand dollars and 8 months later, Timmy started a new life in Canada. There are great challenges, but even greater joys.
Timmy’s four older siblings describe him as the best present their parents ever got them. His sensitive nature and love of play makes him the best playmate, and he could giggle from being tickled all day long. Timmy is the “joy centre” of his new home.
Timmy’s preschool teacher describes him as an attentive student who is zealous for his classmates to learn their letters. He is very well behaved, except for sometimes stealing the teacher’s chair when she gets up after circle time. Timmy is so gentle and sensitive that others feel safe and free to be themselves around him. Whenever anyone looks sad or hurt, Timmy notices and comforts them.
People with physical or cognitive challenges are no less valuable than those who are naturally able in other ways. They have much to teach us, they bring simple joy and needed perspective; they show us things we often miss about ourselves and about the world. May we treasure these people, and the opportunity to know them. Timmy is becoming a uniquely joyful part of more and more peoples’ lives, something available for anyone taking time to recognize and celebrate people with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. May we do so in big and small ways, not just on one day, but whenever we have the opportunity. I know we will come away richer.