Smile, play and engage

This a post about my nephew Tijs. He is 5 years old and he acts exactly like any other boy of his age. His eyes (and sometimes his acts) are full of mischief, he loves to play, he loves animals (especially elephants, just like me!), drawing, he is a pro at jigsaw puzzles and as you can see he loves to put all his animals in rows, elephants first :D.

He also loves to read. Seeing him sit with a book, moving his lips as he reads the words is so awesome, and I can’t help but smile every time he does it.

Last year we went to the zoo with him, and oh my gosh, it was SUCH joy!!! Especially seeing his response to the seals and the sea lions, he just couldn’t contain his joy. I love this picture of him and his uncle sharing a joke 🙂

He is such a joy to be around. His spirit is such that he manages to make everyone around him smile. (Unless he is mad, which he also can do really well).

It’s mesmerizing to see my father (who has Alzheimer’s) and him communicate in a way that involves anything but words.

But, when others see Tijs, they don’t see that amazing boy he is, they just see his Down Syndrome. I have seen people just stare, turn their heads, look with contempt.

Behavior like this is fueled by fear. It’s wired into us to fear what we don’t know and often lack of understanding fuels that even more.

When you look at Downies through those eyes, you miss making a connection to someone who has the ability to make you look at life in a completely different way.

I challenge you to make an impact, by not averting your eyes next time you encounter someone with an extra chromosome. I challenge you to smile and engage in contact with them. Who knows, it may enrich your life in a way like my nephew has enriched mine, as he does for all of us fortunate enough to know him.

He’s the kind of boy who does that, just because of who he is. And that’s a blessing anyone should have.

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