That was the question that came from the curious voice of a 10 year old little girl at a new all inclusive playground that just opened near us. It was the grand opening day and we had been excited for months. My sweet Hannah Grace, who just happens to have Down Syndrome (pictured above) couldn’t contain the happiness as she approached the bright beautiful twisty twirly slides, swings and all the new fun things to explore.
We made it over to the zip line which we quickly learned is a favorite of all the kids, so we had to wait in line. As we awaited our turn, I noticed a little girl who kept staring at Hannah with confusion as if she were trying to figure something out. I saw it on her face that she was about to say something, and sure enough, she blurted out…”What happened to her face…What’s wrong with it?” “I’m not trying to be mean” she said, “I was just wondering why it looks like that?” As often as I encountered questions similar to this from other kids, it still somehow catches me off guard. The little girl wasn’t trying to be rude, she was in all honesty just being a curious kid.
So I leaned forward and smiled at the little girl and proceeded to tell her that nothing “happened” to her face, and that she just had one more chromosome than she had and how that made her features look a little different than everyone else’s. As I was explaining a little bit about what it’s like to have Down Syndrome, several other kids made their way over to us and wanted to listen in and ask questions too. Of course I had to whip out her pictures on my phone and they all just beamed at the sight of her. One of the older girls (around 14/15) told Hannah how beautiful she was and another little girl commented on how funny she was.
One of the little girls in particular was incredibly sweet to Hannah and took her by the hand and played with her the whole rest of the time. She even shared her new big wheels toy she got for her birthday on the car track and pushed her around for a good 30 minutes since Hannah wasn’t able to push the petals to make it go. I asked that little girl where her Mama was who had actually been watching a few feet behind us the whole time, and went over to explain to her what was going on and I thanked her for raising her daughter to be kind to others. As we watched our daughters play together I got teary eyed as I saw how much happiness the kindness of one little girl brought to my daughter that day.
There were other questions from other kids that day like, “Why do you have to help her with that?” and, “Why won’t she answer me?”. I use those questions as an opportunity to educate and advocate. That playground will be filled with kids of varying abilities and kids with all kinds of questions. It may be just a playground to Hannah Grace, but to me it’s a classroom full of kids with their hands raised. So keep those questions coming, we love making new friends.
But if you want to know the REAL answer to the question, “What happened to her face?” I would argue that she was indeed kissed by Angels…
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16
Hate is a choice, but so is kindness. Please always choose to be kind. Not all kids have visible physical traits related to there different abilities like my daughter does, please also be aware of that when you see behaviors that may be a little different than the ‘norm’.
Look with your eyes. See with your heart. -Paperdolls Photography
If you enjoyed this story, then you will love reading “Dear Future Best Friend“, but grab the tissues.