Jesus, Douglas, and Me

About 18 years ago, I met a young man whom I will call Douglas. Over these many years, I’ve seen him learn and grow – and just keep on growing. Naturally, most people do this, whether by happenstance or choice. Douglas chooses positive things.

I noticed Douglas’s charm, first. One of his many gifts is to be thoughtfully, authentically charming. There is no guile in this man. He was approximately 17 years old when we first became acquainted. The large blue-gray eyes were openly expressive and observant. He was welcoming to his guests – my younger son and me. It didn’t take long for Douglas to invite my shy, several-years-younger son to play video games with him. He wanted everyone to feel welcome in his home and even with his cherished entertainments. He didn’t exclude anyone, based on age or any other factors.

While some young men insist on a facade of machismo, ego-stroking or exaggerated bravado, you won’t notice any of that falseness in him. It is his joy to include everyone in planning parties, birthday celebrations (doesn’t matter whose birthday), celebrating achievements, such as athletic pursuits, and just the small happinesses we find on any given day. Among his several God-given talents, hospitality ranks pretty high. Douglas feels equally comfortable with the small children in the room, as well as adults of any and all ages. His sensitivity to the human spirit allows him to instinctively know when someone needs a quick boost to a beaten-down ego, a hug, or perhaps a corny joke at which to laugh. Douglas is so intuitive – because he cares. He cares in a way that allows him to sense and feel the important things in life. He feels, honestly. He feels, deeply. While his feelings easily can be hurt, he’d rather seek out ways to make others smile.

I married Douglas’s uncle and have enjoyed his company on many, many occasions, since. This is just a little bit of my journeys in time with him.

His grandmother fell into a slowly declining ill health while he still was a very young child – perhaps still a toddler. I didn’t know the family then, but I did see his genuine concern for a much more failing woman, whose personality had never been like a beloved Betty White character, but steadily deteriorated; much like her body after the stroke. Family pictures show a smiling, almost cherubic little boy on the lap of an equally broad-smiling Grandma. Even that challenging, critical personality could not resist the genuine person that was (and is) her grandson. Be it the unconditional agape; romantic eros; loyal friendship of philia, or the familial storge, Douglas brings love to the table of some type. His nuclear family is tightly knit together in what I would call a true team. No one sits on the sidelines and each one is expected to do his or her part. They laugh, love, argue, forgive, and press on. Somehow, Douglas is like a very special ‘glue’. He isn’t afraid to remind them of his expectations of cohesiveness.

As a human being, he has his shortcomings, too. I’m sure siblings and parents could tell of temper tantrums in his younger days. I’ve seen him display some stubbornness in his planning desires. Perhaps he may be overly enthusiastic, at times. Occasionally, his social needs are his perseveration. His former girlfriend could tell some pretty hilarious stories about his female knowledge learning curve.

Douglas respects people. Having a bad day? Not feeling like doing much talking? Need some time alone to think something through, mentally scream, or have a good cry? Douglas honors your requests and your privacy. He understands because he’s been there. He may come back to check up on you and make sure you’re doing better.

Rules are his friends. They make sense to him. Their safety comforts him. He doesn’t fake not remembering them. Work is not an undesirable four-letter word to him, although sometimes he’s tired and tried by it. He takes pride in his efforts, yet is modestly appreciative when acknowledged.

Douglas is shaken by unhappiness. If you’re not happy, he’s not happy. I wonder if he struggles with finding the ‘right’ answers and feels a responsibility for solving some of the difficulties of life that he’s seen? While the world clamors to simplify the huge mess it has become, Douglas sees and lives in terms of simplicity. He enjoys steadiness and stability in the important things. He indulges in the fantastical for fun and amusement.

I wish you could know him, too. He loves the Detroit sports world – Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, and Tigers. He has the latest in sports-themed video games. He’s a painter of absolutely gorgeous pictures: Dogs, scenic landscapes, sports stadiums or cityscapes. He has an educated appreciation of music; everything from Lou Christie to Elvis (both of which he has honed hilarious imitations) to Mozart, which he capably discusses. I quite admire how talented he is (with just a tiny twinge of jealousy) and I wonder how many more things he will discover and attempt. While he hasn’t attended an Ivy League school, he is wise. He doesn’t have a six-figure-paying job, yet he is rich. Celebrities haven’t heard of him, but his inner star burns brightly. The world doesn’t acknowledge him, but he quietly makes it a better place by reminding us how phony and shallow the world has let itself become. He’s an accomplished, soon-to-be 35-year-old man.

You may be thinking, at this point, along the lines of, “Who is she talking about? No one is that good-natured. Is this her secret love crush? A fairytale Prince?” You would so miss the mark, though.

Douglas loves, lives, and learns with his very special talents. These talents have been, how do I describe?, enhanced…yes! I believe that – enhanced! by his gift of Down Syndrome. That’s right – it’s not a curse; not a failing; not a shortcoming – it’s a G-I-F-T! A gift to be used as Mission, but only the most lovely in heart have that gift. I’m sadly envious that I don’t have that considerable gift. Oh, I realize that many people have seen the type of person that is Douglas, though wearing another name and face. There also are many other tributes that exist to them. I write about Douglas because of my limits, not his. I’m limited in what I can create as fantasy, where others are able to create plots, personalities, and purpose. Nearly every day, I want so much to say something that is important and useful. I think I have a talent to gripe and complain about politics (while somehow ending up sounding political), rudeness (while going too far and committing the same sin), or the lack of career opportunities for someone of my experience, abilities, and age… It’s so easy to fall in with the proverbial, “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.” Deep inside myself, is a desire to somehow, some way, at some time, break a hardened heart and touch a soul. I think Douglas has been that gift, to me, one that has nothing to do with me, personally. I stand only as an observer. I didn’t raise him or teach him anything. He has raised my spirit and taught me to peel away the layers of darkness in my mind so I can see that tiny light reflecting and sustained by the Giver of Light.

To spell it out, here’s where Jesus comes into the equation:  Douglas loves like Jesus, as nearly as can any mortal human being. No phony prerequisites and no prejudices. Yes, Douglas believes in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He takes his turn, happily, with prayer before celebratory feasts. He thanks God from his heart, not to impress. I am totally and forever convinced that Jesus gifts us with the purity of certain souls, such as in Douglas. The Savior notes how much extra effort they put forth to learn and do and achieve their best, all without becoming snide, conceited or pompous. They love being happy and they want to share it. They neither want to steal yours away, nor hide theirs.

Douglas and others like him have a very specific and important mission, which we only recently have learned to begin regarding as truly special in every good sense of the word. They give us a small glimpse of how Love is intended, with very little selfishness, and a small taste of what is possible in the here and now, as well as the Kingdom that is to come. What and whom the world considers first will be last; the last shall be first.

Learned and highly respected scientists and physicians characterize Down Syndrome as having one too many chromosomes. This most commonly involves the ‘preferred pair’ labeled 21. What if they’re incorrect? What if WE actually are the slow learners? WE are missing what they are not? WE are deficient in OUR number of chromosomes 21? How much less strife, war, hatred, and cruelty would be displayed in the world? This blows my mind!

As far as the ‘me’ goes in the above title:  I am joyful to know Jesus and Douglas, His extraordinary child. One loves me as His spiritual sister, the other as his aunt. I am abundantly loved and  blessed, indeed.

Matthew 23:11,12

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

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~ by saginawrobin on January 22, 2014.

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