I was signing copies of GIFTS at a Barnes and Noble author event when a tall, brunette middle-aged woman approached the table. She peered at me and the stack of books at my elbow with curiosity.
“Do you have any friends or family members with Down syndrome?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I’ve been lucky.”
It took me a few long seconds to recover from that remark. I don’t remember what I said in reply, but I took care to keep my voice friendly. Surely she wasn’t intending to be insensitive. And after all, until my son Thomas was born–and for several months afterward–I shared her sentiment: We’re lucky if we never have to deal with Down syndrome.
I don’t believe that anymore.
Thomas is about to turn two. He’s taking his first steps and speaking his first words. The fact that he has Down syndrome does not in any way lessen the delight of his childhood. If anything, our family’s pleasure in his company is heightened by his diagnosis, thanks to the many ways his presence has opened our minds and hearts. We are the ones who are lucky.
I didn’t know that from the start. And that’s why I compiled GIFTS, a collection of 63 personal essays written by moms of kids with Down syndrome, each describing the gifts of respect, strength, delight, perspective, and love which their child has brought into their families. The purpose of the book is to illustrate why the life of a child with Down syndrome is something to celebrate.
This is a message desperately needed in our society. In a previous post I noted that in the USA, 90% of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted. I drew attention to the current clinical climate surrounding a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and asserted that the unbalanced information given to patients by their doctors might contribute to the alarming abortion rate. Medical professionals do a great job educating parents about what might go wrong if they welcome a child with Down syndrome into their family. My lament: If only parents could know what might go right. If only every parent facing a diagnosis of Down syndrome could read supportive, candid, hopeful stories like those in GIFTS.
I’m pleased to announce that Barnes and Noble Booksellers are taking steps in this direction, led by CEO Steve Riggio, whose adult daughter has Down syndrome.
–On Saturday October 13, Utah Barnes and Noble stores are hosting a book fair to benefit the Gifts Outreach program.
–Barnes and Noble will give the program up to 25% of all sales accompanied by a Gifts Outreach book fair voucher on the appointed day.
–The voucher is valid at any Utah Barnes and Noble bookstore, all day.
–All funds raised will be used to buy copies of GIFTS: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives for Utah’s Down syndrome support organizations to distribute to new parents and medical professionals statewide.
–Special book fair events will be held at several Wasatch Front stores.
If this event is successful, Barnes and Noble will consider hosting a regional or even national Gifts Outreach book fair next spring, in connection with their second annual Down Syndrome Awareness Day. Such an event would enable Gifts Outreach to get thousands of copies of GIFTS into the hands of new parents.
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Take positive action by supporting the Gifts Outreach book fair! If you’re a Utah resident, please spread the word in your schools, churches, and communities (you can download an explanatory flyer here). If not, please forward this information to your Utah contacts and encourage them to participate.
Thanks for helping families touched by Down syndrome understand what might go right.