Having a child with Down syndrome can be incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions among those who do not have firsthand knowledge of the condition. This lack of understanding often causes people to make remarks that are likely well-meaning but ultimately insensitive and hurtful.
Pam is a mother who is all too familiar with such situations; her daughter Sophia was born with Down syndrome. Ever since Sophia was born, Pam and her family have been subjected to rude stares, oblivious comments, and offensive questions from strangers. Pam once had a stranger inquire as to whether her daughter was adopted.
Despite her initial dismay, Pam quickly came to terms with Sophia’s diagnosis. She sees her daughter’s beauty and her kindness, not just the fact that Sophia has Down syndrome. All Pam really wants is for other people to do the same and realize that there is more to her daughter than her condition. All too often, however, all people see is a child to be pitied or gawked at.
Though Pam has grown accustomed to the stares and whispers, she is still hurt by them. Some days it is easy to tune people out, other days it seems nearly impossible. The day in question was the latter. Pam recalls sitting in the coffee shop with Sophia, something they do fairly regularly. Pam had noticed two women at a nearby table staring and murmuring to each other.
“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.” As she grew increasingly irritated, Pam noticed two people headed their way. Immediately she assumed they, too, were hoping to gawk obliviously. But when the couple reached their table, Pam was pleasantly surprised.
Instead of staring at her daughter, the man gave her a handshake and a high five. Sophia responded with a wave and a smile. His eyes were brimming with tears when he turned to Pam and said “I have a story I would really like to share with you. But I am afraid I won’t get through it without choking up.” Pam’s curiosity got the best of her, and she softly urged the man to continue.
The stranger told her about an interview he had seen the night before. “There was an interview of a mother who had recently given birth to a child with a major disability,” Pam explained, “she was defending her choice not to terminate despite the doctors encouraging her to do so.” After he had finished his story and started to turn away, he looked back and told Pam “you are a beautiful person. Your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations.”
The interaction, though brief, meant the world to Pam. The man was a stranger, he could very well have acted like so many others and been rude or ignored Sophia completely. Instead he chose to see her. He saw her as a beautiful, happy little girl at a coffee shop with her mom. “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.”
When Pam shared her wonderful experience with her friends on social media, she never expected the post to go viral. The post has since been shared thousands of times, flooded with messages of positivity and love.