Dear Future Best Friend,
I know you’re out there, you just haven’t found me yet. You see, I’m kind of quiet because I’m not good with words right now. Plus, I’m a little shy, too; so it may be kinda hard to find me among all the voices much louder and clearer than mine. I think I must be the best hide-n-seek player in the universe because most days I feel like no one sees me at all.
Sometimes, I pretend I have invisible superpowers so it doesn’t hurt as bad when people pretend they don’t see me. So I just play quietly alone in the corner of the playground making ‘friends’ out of my fingers; shaping them like tiny legs and imagining they walk up to me and ask me to play. Some of the kids have called me names like “baby” because I have a hard time getting my words out on account of the low muscle tone I was born with.
I heard a comedian on a TV commercial one time call people like me the “R” word, but I know you would never say hurtful things like that about me, future best friend, I just know it.
Then another time, I saw a man on TV who had an extra chromosome just like me, and I was so excited at first! He was talking to a big group of people who were wearing fancy suits and had microphones and serious faces. The man was telling the group of people all the ways ‘we’ can help those around us. His name was Frank Stephens and he wanted to know why others thought people like ‘us’ don’t have a place in this world. Why did he have to do that? I didn’t know there was anything ‘wrong’ with me. He said that people with Down syndrome were “Powerful sources of happiness.” Will I have to give a speech like that one day, and if so, will you help me tell them what a good friend I am?
Hey, wanna know what else? I smiled and waved to a little girl at the grocery store today, but instead of waving back, she just pointed at me asking her Mommy, “What’s wrong with that girl?” But instead of her Mommy telling her to say ‘Hi’ to me and be friendly back, she just pulled her arm to get away from where I was as if I were contagious with the ickies. Then, I saw my own Mommy’s face get sad, but she hugged me really tight and told me, “Some people are frightened of angels the first time they see them because of how brightly they shine.” I didn’t mean to scare her or make her run away, but I guess my halo was shining too bright today or something.
When you do find me, future best friend, I know you won’t run away or be afraid. And if my light is too bright, I will share my sunglasses with you. When we meet, you will wave back and ask me what my name is. And though I may not be able to pronounce my own name perfectly, please know that I am trying really, really hard. You’ll probably definitely want to play with me and tell me jokes and share your toys, too. I bet you’ll even pat the seat next to you at lunchtime at school to have me come sit next to you so we can share our snacks (I love snacks!).
You won’t be ashamed of me and will invite me to your birthday party where you’ll include me in the fun games you play. You’ll even let me help blow out the candles and open your presents!
You will tell all your other friends my name because you know it’s hard to understand when I try to say it myself. You’ll even tell them about my extra chromosome and how cool it is and tell them I’m your ‘extra chromie homie’ and everyone will laugh and smile with me. I don’t really know how to explain my Trisomy 21, but I do how to be myself REAL good, so I hope that will help them like me if I just be… ME.
I can’t wait to meet you, future best friend! I know that you will help me keep up if I can’t understand something as fast as you do. You will be patient with me, and even slow down so I can catch up when we run and play! You’ll nickname me The Hug Monster and sing “Baby Shark” with me 25 times a day as if you’ve never heard it before, haha! You’ll wear crazy socks and blue and yellow colors with me on March 21 for World Down Syndrome Day to show others that you like and support me! You will even hold my hand and cross the finish line with me at our annual Buddy Walk in the fall and help me put on the medal I’ll win! Our moms will be friends, too, and we’ll have lots of playdates and gluten-free cookies!
You will stick up for me when others say mean words or point and laugh. You will tell the other kids that just because I can’t communicate the exact way they can, doesn’t mean I can’t understand the mean names they call me, and strange looks they give me. I have feelings too, and my feelings hurt really bad when they make fun of me. You’ll let them know that Down syndrome and other different abilities aren’t scary. You’ll make sure they know that we are all more alike than different, and tell them what a good friend I can be if they just give me a chance! You will make me feel like I matter — like I’m not an outcast or worthless.
Well, future best friend, I have to go now, but I know you’ll find me soon, and when you do, let’s never play hide-and-seek ever again — I don’t like being invisible anymore.
Love, Your very BEST future best friend
P.S. I made you a special video, I hope you like it.