During the church service, he reached over Vera and me a couple of times to stroke Ella's cheek, then her silky hair as she rested her head on my lap. Ella just looked at him and smiled.
Vera usually draws during the sermon. Yesterday, she drew pictures of Luke's friend. She showed me with the shy smile of teenaged girls everywhere who might have a little crush on big brother's friend. It was cute to see.
I was out walking this morning, hoping no one caught me with a big smile on my face while thinking about Luke's friend, of many other friends, of family members...when my mind went back to high school, of all things. I never witnessed this happening but every morning before school began, some of the football players would gather in the cafeteria to socialize before the first bell rang. A fellow student with Down syndrome wanted to gather and socialize with them. One morning, the players got the bright idea to pass around a glass and spit in it then give it to the boy with Down syndrome to drink.
Perhaps he would have, too. I can imagine Vera drinking it, not realizing that anyone would ask her to do something harmful or gross, always believing that people have her best interests at heart. (Guilelessness is part of her charm and I am happy she lives a life that allows her to maintain it.) Fortunately, all those years ago in the school cafeteria one of the football players said no, we aren't going to do that. He took him under his wing and that was all it took. I don't think they continued in their mistreatment of him again.
One thing I've remembered from my earliest readings about raising children with Down syndrome is that the family soon realizes what a great character barometer they are, how they start to rely on the reaction of their child to as a window to the soul of new acquaintances. It goes the other way, too...we watch people's reactions to our children with Down syndrome, to their quirks, to their very existence, and proceed accordingly with the friendship, or not.
My children have effortlessly adopted this way of viewing and evaluating the world. They will always remark on the way kids at church treat Vera, Emma, or Ella. The straightest path to their heart is to treat their siblings well.
Straightest path to my heart, too.