On January 1, 1980, a New Year's baby and the first to arrive in the area, Andy was born two months premature, weighing in as a two pounder, and barely alive. He had many complications and the chances of his survival were slim. I was only sixteen at the time, but I remember believing that my baby would survive and give our world a special gift. Little did I know, six months later, the doctor's would discover that he had actually been born with Down syndrome. No matter to me, we had a bond that no diagnosis could break. The first three years were difficult for Andy's health and development as he was hospitalized numerous times with various maladies; collapsed lung, heart surgery, pneumonia, and a broken arm. But he overcame the challenges and grew into a preschooler as I finished high school. Andy went through the special education program in our public school system and he received tremendous attention, instruction, and hope for the future. Our small community always surrounded our family with acceptance and support. Not in a pitiful sort of way, but with fun-loving friends and neighbors who tended to keep a close eye on the little boy with special needs, and we felt encouraged. I have come to realize that my son was meant to give our world many gifts. Like the time he rode his tricycle around the block, stopping to pledge allegiance to the neighbor's flag. That couple was changed by witnessing Andy's act of respect. Or the Halloween parties we dress-up for annually where every party-goer is surely influenced by the mass group of costumed creatures where no prejudice is possible because no one knows who is disabled and who is not; the world we all dream for! Andy's sister, little brother, and other relatives have been privileged to witness the difficulties life can present Andy, and the joy he keeps finding in the midst of the rubble, as he lives a life free of drinking, drugs, and typical worries that take hold of most of us. For me, Andy has given to me the greatest gift possible. A changed life. Many years ago when I was going through a tough time, it was a Sunday morning and I decided to give church another try. As I stood asking God if He was real, Andy tugged at me to get my attention. I was bothered at first and being the good mother I am, I ignored him! He persisted! Finally I turned and was shocked to find that Andy had brought from home the "J" encyclopedia and he was pointing to a picture of Jesus knocking at a door. I wondered, "How was this possible? So many books to choose from and so many pages? How could it be?" A miracle I concluded. A gift, and Andy was the angel in disguise.