We Can Learn a Lot From Someone With Down Syndrome

I have been sharing each word from my book Sight Words the past few weeks, focusing on one word each day. I am not yet halfway through the 100 Day challenge. Today, I want to share something different with you. I will resume with the words tomorrow.

I apologize in advance for the length of today’s post. It is much longer than most.

I started writing this post a few days ago while going through some difficult days. I am in no way seeking any sympathy, that is just where I have been recently. These thoughts came to me while spending some time with our daughter.

I remember, some things more vividly than others, the early days and months of Kyle’s life. The first thing I remember is the night she was born. I knew immediately something was not quite right, or at least not like we expected. In the hours and days that followed, we learned that she was born with Down syndrome and a genetic heart defect. The latter nearly claimed her life before her second birthday.

I also remember waiting for her to learn to walk and talk. Our family knew her progress would be slower than most stereotypical ‘normal’ children. We just did. Not know how far behind she would be. I probably should not have joked about this, but I did. I would say that we could not wait for her to start talking. Now, we cannot wait for her to stop. I have learned during her 27 years that when she talks we would do well to listen. We can often learn what is bothering her or if she is hurting from listening to her self-talk.

Her actions and words have taught us a lot. We have learned a lot from a child with Down syndrome. I thought it might be worth sharing. Please share it with others if you agree.

LIFE. Never take it for granted. Life is short no matter how long you live. Live it to the fullest.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. It does not matter who you are, what you look like, or what you have done. Kyle loves everyone, without condition. She has issues with dogs. She does not like most of them. But people? You are loved by her and there is not a single thing you can do about it. There is not a chance that she will not love you for who you are.

PERCEPTIVE. She has a sixth sense. She knows when something is not right. And she acts on it.

EMPATHY. Empathy, it is said, is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another. Kyle has something we did not or could not teach. Sometimes I am in awe.

LISTEN. You have to listen carefully. I have never met a boy with Down syndrome who I can understand. Many girls are also hard to understand. Even Kyle on occasion. You have you listen closely. I often repeat what I think I heard to make sure.

SPEAK. Do this from the heart, with a measure of grace and gentleness. There is a time to be firm and straightforward. Whether it is speaking or through a keyboard, pause first because you cannot get the words back.

FEARLESS. Except for the dogs I mentioned, she has no fear. Mission trip to Haiti? Sure. “When does the bus leave,” she asked, when our missionary friend spoke about her orphanage and invited people to visit the 5th World country on a work mission. Asking people about their spiritual life? She is all over it. She puts me to shame.

PRAYERFUL. Every Sunday morning, Kyle is the first one up in our house. She prays for everything and everyone that comes to her mind. I know, because she sits on the sofa (where I normally sit) and she is praying out loud. One recent morning, she said, “Dad, come over here and let me pray for you.” #meltedmyheart

SERVANT. Sometimes we need a personal assistant to keep up with her schedule. She volunteers, attends college and participates in numerous activities. And a few days ago, she said, “I need to step up.”

GIVER. She simply has a giving heart.

THANKFUL. She is so appreciative of the little things.

FRIEND. It was not our goal for everyone in our community to know Kyle, but it seems like everyone does. We are blessed by her and our many friendships. We will never take them for granted.

Life gets busy and it is easy to get sidetracked. Be intentional. Live with purpose and on purpose. Don’t forget the lessons that we can all learn from a girls with Down syndrome.

Today’s Winning Thought: “I have Down syndrome and I can read. You need to pay attention and try harder.” — Kyle Loucks, speaking to a group of elementary students she was reading to at a school where she volunteered.

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