I visited with my friends Karen and Gracie today. I haven't seen them for a while so it was lovely to have an opportunity to spend time with them.
Gracie wanted to watch "The Lion King," so Karen and I sat down with cups of tea and caught up on each other's news. From time to time, Gracie would break away from her movie, come give me a big hug, then return to her chair in front of the TV.
When the movie was over, we went for a walk on the shady trails beside the river. That lovely green shade, and the sound and moisture from the river were a delight this hot afternoon.
Gracie literally ran down the trail, stopping only when we called to her to wait, and then standing, eyes closed, and face upturned to the light.
We headed to MacDonald's after our walk, for cold drinks, and so Gracie could visit the play place. She particularly loved the slide and positioned herself at the top, greeting every single child who came to use it.
By the time we parted ways, Karen and I had caught up on each other's news and Gracie had played herself out to the point of needing a good, long nap.
A pretty ordinary day, right?
Gracie was born with Down syndrome.
She has very limited vision. She's legally blind, seeing from the periphery of her visual field but not the center.
She's extremely hard of hearing, requiring hearing aids. Her hearing continues to diminish, and she will probably one day be profoundly deaf.
Because of the way the muscles in her lower back and pelvis have developed, Gracie's hips are splayed. She walks awkwardly, shifting from side to side as she swings her legs forward from the hip, bending her knees very little. It can be difficult for her to cope with uneven ground.
Gracie has low thyroid function for which she'll have to take medication every day of her life, and she has a hole in her heart. She's allergic to cow's milk and cannot eat soy products.
That's a lot of challenges for one little girl to face! I cannot begin to imagine what Gracie's world looks like from inside Gracie's head.
She is joyful.
I'm not saying that Gracie is happy every minute of every day: She's a normal kid. She gets tired, and cranky. She can be stubborn. She sometimes acts out.
But she's happy.
She greets the people she loves with enthusiasm and joy each and every time she sees them. She gives the best hugs and, quite literally, does a happy dance when someone she loves walks through the door.
Despite her physical challenges, she enjoys being outside. She wants to run, and to swim, to play on the swing set, and dig in the dirt, and when she does these things she savours every single moment.
Gracie may not see everything, but she feels it. She enjoys the sun on her face more than any person I've ever met, and is intensely aware of the happy shock of cool water on warm skin, or of the sweet smell of the hot forest on a summer afternoon.
Best of all, she expresses her appreciation for all these things, unaffectedly, without expectation that anyone else will share her enthusiasm, simply and purely because they make her happy.
Being with someone who so clearly finds joy in all the little blessings in her life, I cannot help but find joy in them myself. Every time I see Gracie, she reminds me to be grateful too, and to remember how very blessed I am to have the life I have.
It was a wonderful day.