by Nikki McBride Spencer
(re-posted from my blog in honor of World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st)
You've seen it, too. The alabaster skin with the shining dark hair. The evil Queen with the really bizarre head wear. The poisoned apple. And don’t forget the adorable little diamond miners—each representing a distinct personality trait or medical condition.
Some of those little men had real problems. Doc, the caretaker, had his work cut out for him watching after the bi-polar twins, Happy and Grumpy. Sleepy had a severe case of narcolepsy. The painfully shy Bashful could hardly speak around Snow White. Sneezy was allergic to life—that counted him out for feeding the chickens or dusting, what with the mold and pollen count and all.
Then there’s Dopey. Loveable, silly ole’ Dopey. When I was a child I never took notice of Dopey, never thought he was weird, or strange, or even out of place. I just figured he was part of this big and wonderful family of woodland folk who loved to sing and dance.
Then I watched Snow White again as an adult, as a parent of a child who was born with Down syndrome. As my children and I were watching this classic, the most amazing discovery dawned on me.
Dopey has Down syndrome.
Think about it—he’s smaller then his brothers, evidenced by the clothing that is too big for him. His ears stick out, just like my daughter’s ears. He is non-verbal, just like some people with DS. He’s quite determined, has a sweet smile on his face, and jokes around a lot with his brothers. Sound familiar?
He has the biggest heart in the whole place. The Seven Dwarves would not be complete without Dopey. And here’s something that I find the most interesting of all.
Did you notice how much Grumpy loves him?
Yeah, Grumpy. The guy everyone loves to hate. Well, Dopey doesn’t hate him. Dopey loves Grumpy, probably more than you or I will ever know. And Grumpy, although a very grumpy fellow, still needs to be loved just like anyone else.
And that is exactly the point. We need people with Down syndrome around us. They, despite their disability or maybe because of it, have a huge capacity to love others. They can be really funny, making us laugh when we need it the most. They give hugs freely, without embarrassment. As a whole, they are the sweetest people I know.
Not all people with Down syndrome are sweet, funny, and loveable all the time; after all, they are individuals just like the rest of us. There are plenty of temper tantrums and selfish gestures. Plenty of hugs and loves, too. But you know what?
People with Down syndrome are a part of our human family, and they have a place here. They belong. They are individuals of worth with something to offer society that isn’t measured in a typical fashion.