This is part of an essay on Down syndrome that appears in the Spring 2008 issue of The New Atlantis. (Big thanks to The Seal Bark for the heads up.)
"In storage at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the secret to what one
professor calls “the first Down Syndrome Association in the history of the
world.” In 1982, Dr. Brian Stratford, a specialist in developmental disabilities
at the University of Nottingham, suggested in the journal Maternal and Child
Health that the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna used a little boy
with Down syndrome as the model for his Christ child. Stratford made a “clear
characteristic diagnosis” of the baby based on his distinctive facial features
and the shape of his hands and toes. The Gonzaga family of Mantua, Mantegna’s
sponsor, had a boy with an unidentified “sickness,” she said, and one of the
artist’s own fourteen children shared this condition—a not insignificant factor
in Ludovico Gonzaga’s choice of Andrea Mantegna as his court painter. Gonzaga
and Mantegna appreciated the humanity of these children whom some might have
preferred to hide away or let die, and that shared sensitivity gave them a
“sense of purpose” with respect to disability which Stratford regrets has been
all but forgotten by our society: “Perhaps Mantegna saw in this child something
beyond the deficiencies which now so occupy our attention and perhaps then, the
qualities of love, forgiveness, gentleness, and innocence were
more readily recognized. Maybe Mantegna saw these qualities as more representative of Christ than others we now regard so highly.”
First of all, let me express gratitude for good writing. This article expressed so well the feeling in my heart about Down syndrome and all disabilities:
"That question, of course, does not express the wish that more children
would struggle with disabilities, but rather that more families might find
within themselves the means to understand, and to transmit to future
generations, the profound truth that every life is filled with meaning, and
every child is a source of joy. The deepest consequences of that discovery, it
seems, have to do not with the recognition or acceptance we might offer to those
who are disabled, but with the strength, compassion, happiness, and wisdom we
might gain by the discovery itself, and by our acting on it. "
My family has learned much from our Love Magnet. DD has constantly taught us the power of love, forgiveness and simple joy. We are forever changed by her. Good writing that promotes the upside of Down syndrome changes opinions and makes this world just a bit easier for my daughter.
I also have gratitude for our church family. DD was so excited for her first day back. She was welcomed by some of her favorite people as soon as we walked in the chapel. We did have a reverence problem at first and DD had to be taken out. She was quick to remember that reverence did not involve yelling and she asked to go back into the chapel. DD showed me that she remembered to take the sacrament with her right hand. She also made sure that I understood that she did not want me to escort her to Primary. Her class welcomed her with opened arms. When I checked later, she was doing great. She gave me a kiss and told me she was on her way from Sharing Time to class. Her happiness was contagious. It felt GOOD to be back at church.
I am grateful that everyone was healthy this past week. I had concerns at one point that we might be barraged by an illness. I'm feeling very blessed that it was a false alarm.
I'm grateful for our local library. I am really looking forward to taking advantage of their summer programs to keep my kids reading this summer. I've started to make friends with one of the librarians. I will be asking her this week for recommendations for good books for DS#3 to practice reading.
I'm grateful for DS#2. My kids had been tired every morning last week. I couldn't figure out why until I caught the boys sneaking out of their beds. It turns out that DS#2 had DS#3 sneaking into his room after lights out so they could read together for an hour or more. They are halfway through the first Fablehaven book. I put a stop to late-night sneaking around. Instead, they will now go to bed 30 minutes early and use that time for reading. DS#2 had been so kind to DS#3, praising his efforts in school and including him in activities. I'm not sure where this flood of brotherly love has come from but who am I to question it?