A Special Christian Community

Do you experience Christian community with people who have an extra measure of compassion, love, acceptance and understanding?

This is what my wife and I experience with the families of the friends of our daughter Emily who was born with Down syndrome. Emily was blessed to attend Paul VI Catholic High School in the Arlington, VA diocese with its special program for children with developmental disabilities. Last Saturday we celebrated the 10th graduation anniversary for Emily and her friends along with their families at a backyard cookout. Almost fifty people including Emily’s friends, their parents and a couple of former teachers joined in the celebration with games, food, drink and conversation.

What distinguished this gathering was the nature of the people. Emily and her friends, now all young adults, have an inclination to love with absolutely no guile and a purity of heart that has impacted all of us. As a result, parents seem to have an extra measure of compassion, love, and acceptance, along with a focused determination to be an advocate for the needs of their children. Over the years, most of them have had to advocate for their children with geneticists, doctors, surgeons, therapists, teachers, school administrators, counselors, job coaches and employers. They know what tough love is.

My wife and I have experienced Christian community with our church, a parish prayer group and a covenant charismatic community. They have all been a blessing in our lives, but Emily’s friends and their families have a special place in our hearts.

The folk hymn, They Will Know that We Are Christians by Our Love seems quite appropriate here.

If you have never been acquainted with a special needs child, seek out the opportunity. You will see the face of God in their big smiles and innocent hearts.

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