9 Things I've Learned From Loving Someone With Down Syndrome

9 Things I've Learned From Loving Someone With Down Syndrome

Let’s celebrate #WorldDownSyndromeDay every day of the year!
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Last week on March 21st, I celebrated World Down Syndrome Day with many people around the globe. Down Syndrome happens when the human body, which is made of 23 chromosomes, has a full or partially extra copy of the 21st chromosome. The body has additional genetic material which affects both physical and mental development, and it is the most common chromosomal condition in the United States. In the U.S alone, roughly 6,000 children are born with Down Syndrome every year, and although the condition has a specific day which celebrates its uniqueness, I believe it should be thought about every day and week. Therefore, I am stretching the celebration of World Down Syndrome Day into this week with this article.

Here are how the facts I listed above relate to you: meeting and loving someone who has Down Syndrome is one of the best things that can ever happen to a person.

Why?

Because they are some of the most beautiful people you will ever meet.

How do I know this?

Because I have a friend with Down Syndrome. His name is Benjamin, although the people that know him affectionately called him either Ben or Benji for short. We've only known each other for about a month, but I can already tell you that he is an amazing friend.Over the course of this past month, I have learned so much from him. Just imagine the things you can learn- there will be so much more than what I've listed below- when you become friends with someone who has Down Syndrome.

1. Beauty is on the inside.

Of course, you can be physically beautiful and have Down Syndrome. There are models who have Down Syndrome, who design clothes and rock them on the runway, such as the young woman pictured above (Madeline Stuart). However, my friend Ben has reminded me of the great gift of inner beauty. His heart beats with so much love, kindness, and respect that not only can you easily see his faith in Christ displayed, you can also see every inch of his beautiful spirit.

2. Being yourself is awesome!

Ben is unapologetically himself. He has a strong faith, which means he shares it with the many people he comes into contact with during any given day without fear. He loves country music, which means he sings the lyrics to country songs whenever it is appropriate (which is basically all the time). As a society, we all need to learn how to be ourselves without fear, and Ben teaches me that every time I see him.

3. Honesty is the best policy.

We have all heard this saying growing up, but Ben lives it out, which continuously inspires me. If he thinks someone is beautiful, he tells her. When he has a struggle in his faith, he communicates it. Instead of hiding behind the mask of perfection we all seem to have learned how to adopt through the years, Ben is honest about everything, and I want to be more honest about my thoughts and struggles too.

4. Emotions should not be hidden.

Ben has a beautiful faith in God and, when he becomes emotional about that faith, he is not afraid to show it. How many of us have lost the sweet reality of our faith? Ben has not forgotten, and if he can cry about the pain Our Savior went through, then I think we can all embrace our emotions a little more openly.


5. Love is meant to be given away.

My grandmother once texted me a quote she found that said "love is not love until you give it away." Ben lives with that type of giving love every day. There are no walls when he loves, he simply loves people who love him, and I want to be able to love others as easily as he does. The world needs more love nowadays, and we all need to be more willing to give love away.

6. Phone calls are better than texting.

Whenever I want to hang out with Ben, we call each other. At first, I thought this was slightly inconvenient. It's much simpler to just send a quick text and move on to the next thing on my agenda. Ben, however, always calls back, and instead of simply arranging when we will meet up, we have a full conversation about our days and more. Now, I love calling Ben because I know that the person picking up the phone will always care, and I might even be prayed over. Does that happen over text? No! Imagine how great it would be if instead of a quick, thoughtless text, we all started sharing longer, more loving phone calls?

7. Music crosses barriers.

Ben loves country music. I love country music. Despite the fact that he is eighteen years older than me, we can still bond over Reba McEntire songs and Ben's incredible knowledge of rodeos. Music can connect people across many barriers, so try to use music to connect with someone who is different than you. You never know what could happen. Maybe they'll even become your new best friend!


8. Family affects everything.

One of the things that gives my soul the most joy is watching Ben interact with his family. They love him so completely, and he loves them all so much that they are constantly teaching me the importance of family in a brand new way. The way you treat your family is something that affects everything else about you and how others view you. Make sure to love your family with everything you have because they are part of what makes you unique.

9. Be intentional!

If I want to spend time with Ben, I have to be intentional about it. I have to figure out his schedule and the directions to wherever we are going and I have to make sure my schedule has plenty of room for the time we will spend together. In contrast, when I want to spend time with my college friends I just go into their dorm room and inform them that we need to hang out. I have to exert effort as I work on the friendship Ben and I share, instead of being lazy with my college friends, and that is something so many people have forgotten. Plan something special and be intentional in all your relationships. Focus on one person or one small group of people so that you can get to know them in an intimate way. Never let your interaction with someone you care about be passive. They are your friends and deserve your full attention.


I wish I could introduce everyone in the world to my friend Ben. He helps me laugh, prays for the people I care about, and knows some of the craziest and coolest facts I've ever heard.

Loving someone who has Down Syndrome is unpredictable, though. Every person who has Down Syndrome is different. After speaking to someone who regularly works with people who have Down Syndrome and other special needs, I know it is important for me to inform you that sometimes loving people with Down Syndrome is difficult. Just like any human being, people with all degrees of mental or physical challenges experience a range of emotions. As Christ-followers we allow the Spirit of God to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit through us to our friends, our families, and strangers, so we should allow the Spirit to guide how we relate to those with Down Syndrome as well. This will help us as we navigate the different ranges of emotions and behaviors that someone with Down Syndrome will experience. I cannot promise that it will be perfect, but I can promise that it will be worth it.

I can also promise that no matter what, you will learn some amazing life lessons that you could learn nowhere else.

A special thanks to Jennifer and Benjamin Nasser and Kurt Pillis for their helpful proofreading and context.
Cover Image Credit: Rebecca Olsen

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To The Grandmothers Who Made Us The Women We Are Today

Sincerely, the loving granddaughters.
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The relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter is something so uniquely special and something to be treasured forever.

Your grandma loves you like you are her own daughter and adores you no matter what. She is the first person you run to when you have a problem with your parents and she never fails to grace you with the most comforting advice.

She may be guilty of spoiling you rotten but still makes sure to stress the importance of being thankful and kind.

Your grandma has most likely lived through every obstacle that you are experiencing now as a young adult and always knows just exactly what to say.

She grew up in another generation where things were probably much harder for young women than they are today.

She is a walking example of perseverance, strength, and grace who you aim to be like someday.

Your grandma teaches you the lessons she had to learn the hard way because she does not want you to make the same mistakes she did when she was growing up.

Her hugs never fail to warm your heart, her smile never fails to make you smile, and her laugh never fails to brighten your day.

She inspires you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You only hope that one day you can be the mother and grandmother she was to you.

A piece of girl’s heart will forever belong to her grandma that no one could ever replace.

She is the matriarch of your family and is the glue that holds you all together.

Grandmothers play such an important role in helping their granddaughters to grow into strong, intelligent, kind women.

She teaches you how to love and how to forgive.

Without the unconditional love of your grandma, you would not be the woman you are today.

To all of the grandmothers out there, thank you for being you.

Sincerely,

the loving granddaughters

Cover Image Credit: Carlie Konuch

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Being The Last Friend To Turn 21 Isn't ALL Bad

All your friends have turned 21, but that is okay

Cassidy
Cassidy
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You may think being the last one out of your friend group to turn twenty-one is the worst thing in the world, but in all honesty, it doesn't have to be. One of the biggest perks is that everyone of your friends can go out to the bars with you on your birthday. All the people who turn twenty-one first have to wait for people to be able to go out with them, but you get to celebrate your birthday with all of your friends.

Another huge reason you should feel okay with being last to turn twenty-one is thinking about all the money you are saving. The bars are expensive. When you don't go to the bars you are saving so much money because an average bar drink is about seven dollars. This being said seven dollars multiple times a night, multiple nights a week really adds up, so you are going to have to budget your money better.

You don't have to be the one to buy alcohol for everyone else. Having a ton of people ask you to buy them alcohol must get annoying at a point, and if you're the youngest out of your friends, no one will be asking you to do liquor store runs for them because they can all go already for themselves.

The biggest reason is that you can enjoy being young. You should still continue to enjoy going to house parties and just being able to hang out with friends without having to go to the bars. Spend these months before you turn twenty-one just being able to enjoy life without feeling obligated to go out to the bars all the time. You have a great excuse when you don't want to drink on a weekday to just stay in. This being said it will be your turn to turn twenty-one soon.

Cassidy
Cassidy

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