We’ve all made another trip around the sun, and World Down Syndrome Day has come around again. For those who aren’t familiar with WDSD, let me catch you up. We celebrate this day on March 21, 3/21, for 3 copies of the 21st chromosome. The way we celebrate is by wearing brightly colored or different socks and showing acts of kindness. My typical WDSD posts are filled with facts about Down syndrome, so everyone can be more educated. This year, I would like to take a different path. We’ve covered WHEN we celebrate WDSD, and we’ve covered HOW. But I want to get to the real heart of WHY.
To begin, let’s discuss why we celebrate the way we do. Odd socks are worn for two reasons: 1) When chromosomes are dyed and laid out in a karyotype, they resemble multi-colored socks, and the difference in chromosomes is what causes Down syndrome, and 2) wearing crazy socks is bound to draw attention to yourself, and you can use those moments to help educate others about Down syndrome. The other way we choose to acknowledge WDSD is by participating in acts of kindness. This is what I would like to expand on.
Our main goal of bringing awareness to Down syndrome is not necessarily so everyone can spout facts about it. While, yes, it is nice to know that others better understand Down syndrome and how it affects people, our primary concern is inclusion. We want our children/siblings/cousins/friends to be able to live in a world where they are treated equally. Where they are valued and supported and loved, just like everyone else. WDSD is celebrated by doing acts of kindness because we, the Down syndrome community, are aiming to make kindness a reflex.
We have all been conditioned to believe that different = bad. And yes, Down syndrome is different. But I promise you, IT IS NOT BAD. A wonderful children’s book just came out, titled “When Charley Met Emma,” and it is about how to treat people who are different. Spoiler alert: you treat them the same as everyone else. If you are concerned with how to teach your children to treat others who are labeled “different,” buy this book. If you, yourself, would like to improve your skills of talking to someone “different,” buy this book. If you’re just looking for another great children’s book to add to your collection, buy this book. Yes, there are several other kid’s books that teach the same lesson. They may be just as great, or they may even be better, but I have not read all of them, so I cannot recommend them, yet. This one, I can. And no, you do not need this book to teach your kids, or yourselves, how to act around “different” people. It’s a pretty simple lesson, really. We’ve all learned it as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The rule doesn’t have an extra clause excluding people you deem “different.” It includes ALL others. To quote the book, “Different isn’t weird, sad, bad, or strange. Different is different. And different is ok!”
World Down Syndrome Day is a day for those of us with “different” loved ones to ask for kindness by showing it. To bring awareness to the fact that they, in fact, DESERVE it. Just as much as you and me. To change the knee-jerk reaction of seeing someone “different.” No more will children be hushed and hurried along when they ask why someone is different. No more will noses be wrinkled and heads turned away. No more will hatred win out over kindness. For we are the ones who love the “different,” and we are calling for change. Let’s let “different” be the new “normal.”