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Down Syndrome: An "Abnormal" Pity or Blessing?

Posted Jan 27 2009 6:28pm

The people first language in this piece is atrocious, but it is an interesting article:

“God has a plan for everything,” people say. But does He really? People often question the existence of good plans that God supposedly has behind everything that happens in this world, especially the bad happenings. Down Syndrome, a scientifically-proven syndrome that is used to refer to the mental retardation caused by an extra chromosome in a human cell’s development stage, is often perceived as a catastrophe upon the person acquiring it. In the same manner, people often question the existence of God’s plan behind having children with Down Syndrome in this world.

I believe the answer to the above question is an unequivocal “yes”. People with Down Syndrome are God’s creation, for which God has good plans for. However, the consequences of our actions towards people with Down Syndrome often prevent these paradoxical yet beautiful plans to be apparent in our lives. In Psalms 139:13 and Ecclesiastes 11:5, we are miraculously created by God in our mothers’ wombs, and in Genesis 1:27, all humans are created in God’s image. People with Down Syndrome do not choose to be born having this syndrome, but rather the chemistry of the chromosomes happened in the womb, long before the fetus was formed. For more information, click here. From creation, people with Down syndrome are not less human than “normal” humans, as many people unintentionally assume. This underlying, almost unconscious assumption towards people with Down Syndrome, often is what triggers the actions and perceptions that “normal” people convey to Down Syndrome people, consequently limiting the revelation of God’s plan through them.

Some misconceptions that “normal” people have towards people with Down Syndrome not only evolves around seeing them as lower than “normal” humans, but also the generalization that all Down Syndrome people are violent and will harm people when given the chance to. In strongly superstitious cultures, people often view Down Syndrome as a curse to families. If all cultures were to buy into these misconceptions, it would be no wonder if we almost never see Down Syndrome people in the public arenas.

Indonesia is one example of a culture as I described above. Down Syndrome people are seldom seen in the malls, cafes, movie theaters, grocery stores, markets, theme parks and other places where “normal” people gathers. The few places where we’d likely to find Down Syndrome people are hospitals, special schools for disabled students, restaurants and their parents’ homes. Furthermore, when we do find Down Syndrome people in some places, we mostly find them passively, rather than actively functioning. I do not recall finding a Down Syndrome person bagging groceries, cleaning tables in restaurants or working other simple jobs in Indonesia, as I sometimes witness in the United States. What I do recall finding very often in Indonesia is Down Syndrome people being accompanied by their helpers in public arenas eating, undergoing therapy treatments, or just simply staying at home most of their lives, not getting much opportunities to go out and experience the world. I cannot find a better reason for these observable facts than the misconceptions that people have, which in turn induce incentives to “hide” Down Syndrome people.

I experienced a turning point in my life where all the misconceptions that I previously had towards Down Syndrome people crumbled down. I have the privilege and honor of knowing a lovely boy who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Through him, I was humbled to realize that he has brought so much blessings to his surroundings by simply being himself. Witnessing the blessings that this boy alone brings, I am very much touched to share some of the hidden beauties that I found being in close encounter with God’s special and unique creation, a Down Syndrome person.

Being around this boy makes me realize and be grateful to God that I am so blessed to have a brain that functions well, that can take in incredibly complex information and digest it to my understanding. While Down Syndrome people have defective brain developments, my brain capacity enables me to pursue higher education and learn professional skills that not many people can acquire. And while the overall learning potential of Down Syndrome people deteriorates very quickly as they age, my learning potential grows as I age, at least until close to retirement age.

This lovely boy has also displayed a joy so pure that I seldom find in contemporary busy people’s faces. Despite his occasional tantrum throwing, this boy just displays a peace that comes from within. While most of us are very concerned with what other people think of us, this boy do not understand what it means to not fit in the society. While “normal” people often perceive him as being weird, sometimes to the extent that they make disgusted or shocked expressions when seeing him, he could not be happier, not having the “weird” word in his dictionary. Sometimes when I was lucky enough to meet him, when I am feeling stressful, I like to just watch him while he is joyfully playing with his toys or when he is just peacefully sleeping and enjoy that pureness from him. I envy his gift of ability to be so pure in the midst of such a crazy and cruel world.

In a fast-paced world that waits for no one, how often do we get so excited that we just want to proclaim to everyone, the simple fact that a five-year-old boy just learns to locate the “backspace” button on a keyboard? We all know that this does not happen often. Rather, almost in an unconscious manner, we underestimate such simple skill and seldom give thanks for our acquisition of those skills. However, being around a Down Syndrome child makes me appreciate this simple skill as a spectacular improvement that can only comes from God. Each time this boy acquires a new set of skills, such as speaking his first word at the age of three, putting marbles into a bottle at the age of four, or pronouncing words clearly at the age of five, I was reminded again and again how our marvelous God miraculously made us able to learn skills for life in His time, yet we sometimes arrogantly take this gift for granted.

Appreciation of these simple skills comes hand-in-hand with acceptance of what God provides for this boy. Every improvement counts exponentially and comes with great thanksgiving. People seldom expect much from Down Syndrome people due to their mental or physical disabilities. Since the mysterious complications of Down Syndrome happened unseen in the womb, people tend to feel that developing the “underdeveloped” being are out of their control. This feeling leads many people to rely more on God as the controller in this situation when they want to feel hopeful, yet they are hopeless. I am reminded of Paul and what God said to him in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This is the attitude that we should have when we feel out of control, that we should not give up hope and should persevere in developing Down Syndrome people.

These blessings which I described above are what I call the hidden beauties. Why are they hidden? Down Syndrome people are very much dependent on others in their surroundings. As we make decisions for Down Syndrome people, our actions will affect them whether we realize it or not. Many people feel ashamed having them, view them as abnormal beings and avoid exposing them to the public. For various justifications on our part, their world is very limited currently, especially in a country like Indonesia. After understanding the blessings that Down Syndrome people can bring to their surroundings, I see no reason why we should hide them from being seen in public arenas. It is like a endless cycle-preventing Down Syndrome people to socialize in public arenas leads to lesser awareness of what they can do and the blessing that they can bring to the surroundings, which then leads to lesser appreciation of Down Syndrome people. Ultimately, this leads to more hesitancy to expose Down Syndrome people, bringing us back to the beginning of the cycle. No where in the cycle do I see an opportunity for Down Syndrome people to fairly experience the world as we experience it, unless the initial point of the cycle is cracked. How would God’s plan be revealed through them if we choose to let this cycle continues?

It is my wish that through my sharing of the blessings a Down Syndrome child has provided me, we can spread their blessings through our actions by not limiting their life spaces and assisting them in fulfilling what God has planned for them. I am very much looking forward to discerning what God has planned further down the years for this boy who is very dear to my heart. I imagine the day when I witness this boy fulfill what God has for him will be a day full of joyful tears - a day of hope and thanksgiving.

Elis Markova has recently graduated with a B.B.A from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently pursuing a Masters of Accountancy degree at the same university.


Psalm 139:13. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Ecclesiastes 11:5. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

Genesis 1:27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

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