Saturday, May 4, 2013

Good Morning, Walgreens!

On our way to church on a Saturday morning, Nicholas made a request for some music or a Bible story CD or something else to listen to. “No,” I said. “Not this time, Nick. Let’s just have it quiet as we get ready for Mass.

We drove on, but I could sense Nick getting restless in the back seat. Finally, as he turned toward the window and spotted a drugstore, he blurted out, “Good morning, Walgreens!”

The whole episode reminded me of that scene in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus was entering Jerusalem and the Pharisees were trying to shush the crowd. “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out,” was Jesus’ reply. And if stones can’t help filling a silent void when joy overflows, neither can a nine-year-old boy who’s excited about making his First Holy Communion the next Sunday. Good morning, Walgreens, indeed!

Nicholas has Down syndrome, and he is exuberant, naturally upbeat, and gregarious—all traits commonly associated with Down’s kids. Every day is truly a gift, and they treat it as such. Every encounter, a privilege; every discovery, a wonder. And the drive to Mass? Not a time for silence, but a time for celebration and joy and flinging out greetings to anyone (and anything) within earshot.

Are there particular challenges associated with raising a child with Down’s?  I suppose, but I’d prefer to put it this way: That Down syndrome itself is the challenge, not the kid affected by it. Sure, there are special therapies, and sometimes special surgeries and medications—all true. But raising any child is challenging—and every child has particularities to deal with, as do we all.

Besides, children are always a gift—the supreme gift of marriage, as the Council fathers taught us in Gaudium et Spes. And their status as supreme gift is not affected in the least by what and how many “particular challenges” they arrive with. Unlike our sad culture that has adopted a consumerist mindset toward kids—expressed in its slavish devotion to contraception, reproductive technologies, and abortion among other things—our Faith affirms the inherent dignity of every child, every human person, no matter their physical or other limitations.

And Nick? He is truly a conduit of smiles—you can’t help it when you meet him. I noted already that he’s receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion for the first time next Sunday, and I can’t tell you how many strangers he’s informed of the fact. Catholic or not, can you imagine receiving that kind of news from a kid like Nick without a rush of warmth? Maybe some tears even? And how long can I be down in the dumps, no matter how hard my day, if Nick comes over, plops down in my lap, and asks me to read another saint story or a chapter from Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Not long, that’s for sure.

Very briefly, say just a matter of hours after Nick’s birth, my wife Nancy and I gave some thought to how we’d adjust to having a child with Down’s. But you know what? It was really just the same as adjusting to all our other newborns—adjusting to receiving a gift, a fantastic, glorious gift. And that’s a welcome challenge any time. 

A version of this story appeared on, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

1 comment:

  1. Belated congratulations and God's richest blessings on Nick's First Holy Communion! What a beautiful, exuberant spirit he has-- "good morning Walgreens", indeed!