Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day
What does it mean to be human? We may ask the question in an abstract, scientific way, and so inquire about features that distinguish humans from other animals. Is it a certain structure of DNA? Is it a particular facility with language or higher reasoning? Yet, I suspect that most of us ask this question in a personal, philosophical way. What does it mean to be human when confronted with some tragedy or challenge, or when pursuing some aspiration or keenly cherished goal? How do human beings create meaning for themselves?
Asking this type of question is a basic job requirement for me as a pastor. It is also so as a parent. A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post touched me both as pastor and parent: “When will we stop killing humans with Down syndrome?” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-will-we-stop-killing-humans-with-down-syndrome/2018/03/08/244c9eba-2306-11e8-badd-7c9f29a55815_story.html
The article mentions the work at Boston Children’s Hospital. Our family knows their work, because we regularly participated in a clinic there for my daughter who has Down syndrome. What appears in the article as statistics to quantify the experience of Down syndrome was for us the personal interactions with people equipped with hope, advocates armed with empathy, and families carrying joys and concerns. We had many conversations about our daughter’s potential. Those early assurances have blossomed over the years into a richer reality of what it means to be human and a deeper appreciation for how much we need each other. And that includes people of all abilities.