Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Little Something Extra

“The difference between ordinary and extra-ordinary is so often just simply that little word - extra."
                                                               -- Bear Grylls

Today is March 21st.  That makes it World Down Syndrome Day -- hooray!  Yes, believe it or not, people from Arizona to Zimbabwe, from Nepal to Nicaragua, from India to Iceland are celebrating a little bit extra, the 47th chromosome on someone they love.  Here is my little bit extra:

Patrick at the top of a hill he climbed at camp.

Almost thirteen years ago a little bit extra graced my life.  I call him my violet living in a daisy world. This is not my analogy it is this mom's:  Violets and Daisies  (However, ever since Patrick has been tiny I have been using this to explain how we view Patrick.  And actually, our kids now spot "violets" all over and cheerfully yell out: "I see a violet!")  

Let's think of it this way, daisies (AKA you and me) grow easily.  We are beautiful.  We don't need all that much care.  If you are over-watered, get too much sunshine or have to be transplanted it all seems to happen without too much trouble.  People like Patrick are violets -- they need a bit more care.  Too much sunshine can definitely be a problem.  Over-watering can cause their flowers to fall off.  Transplantation can be deadly. With all this extra care comes something special: violets are rare and with their velvety beauty remind us of the fragile gift of life.  Besides, violets are known for their wicked sense of humor. :)

Violets are most definitely NOT disabled daisies!

However, our violet is surrounded by daisies and must learn to be a part of the daisy world.  He does so with excitement and purpose.  He likes daisies!  And it turns out, the daisies like him. It can be tough to be different...tough to be unusual...tough to be the first child with Down Syndrome in your school, sports team or theater production.  However, when acceptance and welcome are part of that newness it can also be amazing.  

I like to say that Patrick cracked my heart open.  Although my heart was wide open from loving two other children, Patrick opened my eyes and showed me the loveliness of violets.  Until his presence, I'm sad to say that I was blind to anybody else in my garden and only saw the beauty in daisies.  The uncommon was uncomfortable.  The violets of the world needed to get out of my way -- they easily could be trampled. I was in a hurry.  

Patrick slowed me down.  Watching Patrick bloom has been like watching a flower unfold in slow motion.  It's been truly breath-taking.  Learning to live with an unhurried sense of linger and cherish has been one of Patrick's greatest gifts to me.  I'm no longer trying to trample anything.  I notice the details and the beauty in uncommon velvety goodness.

I remember walking through Disneyland when Patrick was two and having a boy in a wheelchair reach his arm out to me.  The old me would have brushed him aside and hurried on.  I would barely have noticed.  However, with new eyes and a new heart so fresh from mothering Patrick I a middle of a crowd, in the middle of pushing and hurrying Disney-goers.  I stopped my stroller, held that boys hand and looked him in the eye.  In that moment, I could see his violet beauty, soak it in and make a connection.  I still remember his smile and his mother's apology.  I wanted to shout and tell her how blessed I was by her son's interaction with me but I simply smiled.  That moment was just between me and a small boy.  I grabbed it...Disneyland got a bit brighter for me that day.

Once you notice violets, your heart begins to notice all sorts of other forgotten bits of beauty.  Homeless people, people who talk to themselves, the elderly, the outsiders who live on the fringe all hold a beauty for me that I know can be revealed.  I am a lot less scared of differences and a lot more tolerant and forgiving.  Loving Patrick has allowed me to love the disabled parts of myself and to recognize the emotional disabilities in many others.  We are all slow to learn in so many ways.  We all have something of value and something to contribute.  We all matter.

Our world values speed and intellect.  I'm here to tell you that when you rush around being smart you might miss the lesson.  There's a whole lot of wisdom in slowing down and noticing the beauty of violets.  I am forever grateful that my garden has a violet.  Cheers to you Patrick, my little bit extra!


  1. Violets matter. Daisies matter. Everyone does! Loved this post. I love both violets and daisies...but maybe the beauty of violets add a bit more color to the garden of the world...and that ALWAYS is a good thing!!

  2. Love you, love Patrick, love this post. We are so blessed to have you both in our garden.