Today is World Down Syndrome Day. Groups in countries all over the world use March 21 to raise awareness about Down syndrome, the experiences of people who have Down syndrome, and, most importantly, how people with Down syndrome “play a vital role in our lives and communities.” According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. Each year in the United Sates approximately 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome, about one out of every 700 hundred babies born.
Sadly, stigma and myths still surround Down syndrome. The condition can be diagnosed before the baby is born, and many parents face pressure to abort a son or daughter who may have Down syndrome due to fear of the unknown. People with Down syndrome are continually achieving feats once thought impossible, living longer, and enjoying their lives. World Down Syndrome Day is a wonderful opportunity to combat common myths and misinformation and to show the world what living with Down syndrome is really like.
Julie Tennant has a mission to do just that. On her website “The Love Chromosome,” Julie shares the joy of her life with Down syndrome. Her signature T-shirt for sale on her website reads simply, “I love my life,” accompanied by a drawing of two stick figures throwing a ball. Julie and her brother, Derrick, who is paralyzed on his left side, run the website as a way to share Julie’s story and encourage others to love their own lives, too.
In an online video, the brother-sister duo introduce themselves and explain the story behind the website name. Julie says:
Down syndrome means that I have an extra chromosome that nobody in my family has. My grandfather calls it a ‘love chromosome.’ He said that when people make fun of me, it’s because they are missing something, not me. God made me this way, and I know He loves me.
How many people can say with such conviction, “I love my life”? Julie, who has a disability, embraces the joy of living her unique and unrepeatable life. So much so that you easily forget she has a disability at all. Not only is her ministry through “The Love Chromosome” a great lesson in what living with Down syndrome is actually like, she also challenges all of us to appreciate the gifts in our lives.
On World Down Syndrome Day, we hope Julie’s life-affirming message reaches people still blinded by the stigma and myths surrounding Down syndrome. Aborting babies with disabilities is a grave injustice that harms us all because we all suffer the loss of these precious lives. A disability is never a reason to end someone’s life because of the sanctity of human Life. As Julie’s other famous saying goes, “I’d rather be slow to learn than slow to love.”