It was 1987, and I was feeling sorry for myself. I’m pretty sure it was over a girl. It was almost always over a girl. All I remember is that I was crying and, like I said, feeling sorry for myself…a LOT. Back-slumping, eyebrow-furrowing, lip-dropping self-pity. Until I saw and heard something that changed my life instantly—and unbeknownst to me then—has changed me even up to this day.
I had a lot going for me in Hamburg, Germany, as I was getting a lot of modeling work, was living with great German friends, and was enjoying life in one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe.
Funny how a woman can trip all that up. Or rather, how I can let a woman do that to me. So I had to get out of the house. I took a long walk through our residential area. I wasn’t too familiar with the area yet, but I didn’t care if I got lost. I didn’t care if I got run over. (I told you it was a pity party.)
Then it happened.
Beautiful, high row houses lined the street on the right side. But I was on the left side, walking along a sidewalk with a high hedge of shrubs next to me to the left. I heard the whir of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis. But I heard another sound.
Laughter. Cheering. Happy squeals.
What IS that? There must be a beer garden on the other side of the hedge. It was morning, but since when did that ever stop Germans from enjoying a good liter or two?
But I heard children screaming delight, too, not just adults. I knew they started their beer young, but this is ridiculous.
I parted the hedges slowly and poked my head through. Grown ups were hosting outdoor games for a large group of kids and adults with Down syndrome. The adults were teammates with kids as young as three, it looked like. The games were simple: Take a beach ball and toss it in the middle of a hula hoop on the ground…just three feet away.
And they were pulling for each other, boy. If a child with DS tossed it anywhere near the hula hoop, EVERYONE cheered. And their adult teammate with DS cheered with them, and high-fived them, nearly to the point of tears.
And that was all it took that day. I was now in tears too. But not tears of self-pity. Tears of shamefulness before the Lord. How can any problem I have seem significant at all?! Look at all I had! Look where I was and what I was doing! Look at all of the daily blessings that I take for granted so often!
I don’t think I ever cried like I did that day…AFTER I saw those beautiful people with Down syndrome.
And now look at me. I cry even here, writing this to you, thinking how blessed I am to have two treasures of my own with Down syndrome. And this is a blessing that I will NEVER take for granted!