As the mother of a toddler with Down syndrome, Pamela De Almeida has gotten used to being treated differently: the stares, the whispered conversations, the gazes shifting from one daughter to the other, then to herself. That’s not to say she’s okay with it, but it happens so often that it no longer surprises her.
But she was surprised by one couple’s reaction at a coffee shop.
She recounts the entire encounter on her blog “Slice of Life,” which is, “Dedicated to capturing my perfectly imperfect life of raising two daughters; one who was born with Down Syndrome. This is my journey unscripted and unfiltered through journalistic photography and written thoughts.”
I sat in Tim Horton’s with my daughter’s as I do often. Two ladies sitting near us started to stare and whisper. This is a pretty frequent occurrence for us you see; because my daughter Sophia was born with Down Syndrome. I sat there and watched these two women crane their necks to get a better look at her; completely oblivious to the fact that I was staring right back. Today it bothered me. It really bothered me.
Just then, a couple approached me, and I thought, “Oh great! More people who want to take a closer look!”
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The man greeted Sophia with a high five and a handshake, and Sophia smiled and waved back. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “I have a story I would really like to share with you. But I am afraid I wont get through it without choking up.” I gently encouraged him to share, because now I was curious. This interaction was not what I was expecting.
He told me that he had watched the news last night. There was an interview of a mother who had recently given birth to a child with a major disability. She was on the news defending her decision to keep her baby. She was defending her choice NOT to terminate despite her doctors encouraging her to do so.
He said, “The point is, you never know a person’s impact on the world. You can never know what a person is able to do unless you give them a chance.”
He looked at me just before he turned to walk away and said, “You are a beautiful person. Your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations!”
I immediately started to cry. There I sat in the middle of a coffee shop crying into a paper napkin. That man was the first complete stranger to ever congratulate me on the birth of my daughter Sophia. He was the first complete stranger to recognize her WORTH. Her VALUE. Her BEAUTY.
In a world where my daughter’s life is whispered about, where she is stared at, this man saw her IMPORTANCE.
What a wonderful reminder that every human being, not matter how small, has true worth and value. Let’s encourage ourselves and those around us to recognize everyone’s unique beauty every day.
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