Many months ago I came up with this idea for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I decided to ask people who have been touched by Annie to write about her or Down Syndrome or whatever effect knowing her has had on their lives. Some of these “guest authors” started out as strangers, former students who only knew Annie for a short period in their lives. Some are family who are a constant presence in Annie’s life and always will be. I thought it was important for readers to be aware that individuals with Down Syndrome bring important and special gifts not just to their parents, but to the world. To an entire family. To a university. To anyone who is open to letting them in.
It’s easy for a mother to sit and write that everyone should love and accept her child and about how great her baby is. But I want to share the stories of those who never expected to meet someone like Annie. The stories of those who met her unexpectedly as they began their amazing adventures studying abroad. I want to share a grandparent’s view, an uncle’s view, an aunt’s view, a life-long friend’s view.
So every few days you may be reading a post by one of these amazing individuals. I don’t know how I can ever properly thank them for their time and words and especially their honesty.
Today’s guest author is Kristen Macur Brousil. She is a former student at the John Felice Rome Center. We had the absolute pleasure of getting to know her for the quick four months she spent here last spring. A teddy bear from Hard Rock London adorns one of the shelves in Annie’s room. It is from one of Kristen’s weekend trips while she studied here in Rome. I remember after she gave it to Annie thinking how crazy it is that a student we hardly knew yet would think of our baby while off exploring the world. But that is Kristen, super sweet and always thoughtful. She is currently studying at Loyola University Chicago. We miss seeing her smiling face around campus.
Here’s her post….
I always thought of myself as more educated about Down Syndrome than the general population. My mother had received a degree in Education with a specialty in Special Ed. She had always been adamant about not seeing people as worse, just different. In my psych classes I also had studied facts and “typical” developmental tracks for individuals with Down Syndrome. However, it was something that was conceptual to me—like people with cerebral palsy. Some people were born with a condition, and while they were still people, it was something I pitied. I felt like they missed out on a lot of what I thought was “normal” life.
That was until I met Annie.
If I had to describe Annie in one word, it would be “sunshine.” Not only is her hair as bright as the sun, she is such a happy, smiling, friendly little person. She literally lights up a room more than anyone I know—and it’s not just being a baby. There’s something about her that has such a positive effect on every single person she meets.
Annie taught me so much. She taught me that everyone is essentially equal—NOT ONE PERSON is too cool, calm, and collected to start talking in a baby voice and get visibly excited over the chance to hold and/or interact with her. She taught me that it’s about the little things in life—the feel of something soft and fuzzy, cuddling up to a loving person, dancing to whatever music is playing.
She also showed me that individuals with Down Syndrome are not to be pitied, because they aren’t really missing out on life. Some people say, “But they don’t develop normally.” What is normal, anyways? A doctor once told my mother, and I’ve seen it in countless little people: “Babies don’t read the how-to book.” Some kids walk at 7 months; some walk at 18 months. Even twins—I started teething early, one tooth at a time; my sister waited a few months, then grew four in one night. Just because she doesn’t move at the same pace as others doesn’t make her “abnormal”—it just makes her Annie. Others say, “But they won’t be able to have certain opportunities; certain doors will be closed to them—like being a rocket scientist. There’s no way.” Heck, I’M never going to be a rocket scientist. Everyone has different talents and abilities, and if being a rocket scientist is not Annie’s strong suit, then—oh well, she can join us 99.9% of the general population. Annie certainly lights up the world in other ways.
Annie reminded me why I believe in the essential goodness of people. Not one person had any phobias about interacting with Annie because of her ‘condition.’ Everyone—strangers and friends alike—cooed over Annie, without seeing her differently because of how she looks. I introduced my friend to Colleen and Annie once, and when someone asked who Baby Annie was, she answered “Only the most adorable, beautiful little baby the world has ever seen.”
Everyone loves Annie, and Annie loves everyone. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said or done, Annie loves you for who you are—which I have a sneaking suspicion she picked up from her parents. Colleen and Mike are some of the most inspirational people I have met, and they have had such a powerful impact on my life. Watching them raise their little girl has been a powerful testament to the love of a parent, and just how much two strong, caring, loving individuals can change the world. I know that God has placed Annie with some of the best parents she could have, and I know that Annie, our bambina bella, will take that, go forth, and change the world—one smile of sunshine at a time.
Thanks Kristen. The Beazleys have a feeling you’ll be changing the world soon enough! Love from Roma!