Her hands and feet are very small. She has an overall different look about her. When she talks, the verb tenses are often incorrect. When asked a question, it may take her a little longer to respond. This young lady is my daughter.
During her growing up years, together as a family, we navigated integrating her into the community and into the school system. It wasn’t easy. It’s never easy to be different. There were looks from people who turned their gaze away quickly when they realized that you caught them staring. There were doors that were closed because they did not know how to (or want to?) accommodate for an individual who had different abilities and needs. Even our church and school, who should be accepting of all, had to be prodded to include her with her peers. The road of life was full of potholes and detours for my daughter.
We have been fortunate to have family and people in our circle of friends and community who have watched her grow up and appreciate her for who she is. And there are others that we meet that reach out to her to make her feel welcomed. I was reminded of this last weekend as we attended a birthday party for a one-year-old cousin. The house was full of adults, but we only knew about half of them. After the festivities were over and we were getting our coats on to depart, a man who we had just met approached me and asked how old my daughter was. I was a little hesitant to reply as I wasn’t sure where he was going with the conversation and my protective mom mode immediately came to the forefront. But then he said, “I just want you to know that your daughter has such a loving soul. She was such a pleasure to meet.”
What a kind thing for him to go out of his way to say. I felt such happiness that someone else appreciated my daughter for the person that she is on the inside. It made all of those struggles for so many years worthwhile.