Saturday, February 2, 2013
The Tough Gene
"Choose rather to be strong of soul than strong of body."
Would that we could choose it. Wouldn't it be great if we could go around and say, "I choose to be strong of soul." "Today, I choose to be strong of body." But it doesn't seem to go that way. It seems that the very people who are not very strong in body seem to have a strength of soul that inspires and educates.
Personally, that strength of soul is seen on the 21st chromosome...no doubt. Those kids with a little bit extra are tough...not just kind of tough...inner tiger tough.
I've spent the last few days with Patrick who has been sick. The first night it was an all night
barf-o-rama. Almost 12 straight hours of vomiting. He weathered it like a sailor. He could have gone eight more rounds. I was on my last leg.
Next came fever and a sore throat. I was along for the ride...just as sick. I could barely drink. Patrick called it "a frog in my throat". Dealing with strep throat, good-naturedly, he drank tea and smoothies and tried yogurt or soup. I longingly dreamt of popcorn, salad and crunchy chips. He accepted the circumstance with grace, as usual. I'm so glad he's in my life.
Still learning the lessons of how to live and how to be strong of soul from a boy.
Patrick is one tough guy. It is astounding. And, I swear it is the same for other kids I know with that extra 21st chromosome. My friend's baby girl dealing with cancer and every kind of crappy chemo they can throw at her and still she keeps dancing. How about Renee, born with both Cystic Fibrosis and Down Syndrome? What are the odds? What are the chances? How do you think she lived her life?? Swimming and playing and loving the people around her with a strength that humbled every doctor and nurse and person whose path she crossed. How about the orphans with Down Syndrome waiting to be loved for literally years...holding on...and then blooming under the sunshine of a family.
Perhaps it is because people with Down Syndrome have centuries of history of having to tough it out on their own: isolated, abandoned, discarded. Perhaps at the cellular level they have a strength that took eons to develop. Maybe it was borne out of adversity and now it hangs on as a demonstration of the singular goal of every human: strength of soul. I don't know.
What I do know is that people with Down Syndrome have an inner strength that sees them through a lot of crap. They have an inner reserve that somehow manages to hold them through adversity and difficulty that would make most of us cower. They use the moment to pour out grace and kindness. Like some sort of mystical Buddha, they get zen. They smile and dance when no one on the planet believes they possibly could.
I know who I'm betting on when the going gets tough.
"Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected of the strong."
-- Leo Buscaglia