The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
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New York New York 10017
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"Mom, where are the guys with the cardboard?" asks my worried thirteen year-old daughter, Sophie, as we drive downtown in the dreary rain. "I'm sure they'll be here somewhere," I answer her. "Are they under a shelter, Mom? Like a shelter that is outside?" "What do you mean? I ask. "Like something hanging over them?" she asks, pointing to an awning on a large building, using the code language that I have learned over the years to decipher. "Mom, will their signs say 'Hungry'...or 'Money'?" "I don't know, sweetie," I answer, hating the conversation. Sometimes it's hard to explain complexities to her in a way she will really understand. I can feel her frustration and disappointment that we cannot find the people with the signs and give them food. Last week with her halting but clearly intended words, she said, "Bring food for the car." This morning, on the way to visit Grandma, I don't have the food for the car. I think she is disappointed in me, but she is too polite to say so. Probably next time, she will simply go to the refrigerator and take everything that she can and put it in the car to take with us. She no longer trusts me to come forth with this. Maybe sympathy, feeling what another feels when they are in pain or need, is in the heart of everyone. At least until it's disappointed out of us. Until our efforts to help are crazily rebuffed or made futile. But Sophie doesn't care about any of that. Her disability makes this kind of philosophical meandering out of her reach. She just knows that she absolutely must get food and money to the cardboard holders. My daughter has an unexpected gift--tunnel vision of the soul. Maybe it is due to the fact that she was born with a chromosomal anomaly that causes learning difficulty and slower physical development, and so she is na've for her thirteen years. Or maybe she's just a world class kid. At the end of our conversation this morning, she turns to me from the passenger seat and says, "Mom, I know what I would have on my cardboard if I was holding a cardboard." "You do?" I inquire, quite curious. "Yes, mom." Then she adds very seriously, "It would say, 'I need CDs.'" I suppress a smile. And then, as I drive through the rainy streets of downtown, sitting next to my almond-eyed daughter with her wise and compassionate perspective, I wonder what I would put on my cardboard sign, if I had one. I realize there is not a lot of space on a cardboard sign. And it has to say the thing you really, really want. Passersby have only a few seconds to comprehend it. After some moments I realize what mine would say: "Will work for acceptance of my daughter and to ease the challenges of her disability. But will keep her heart just like it is."

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