Driving home from western Pennsylvania where I had spent a weekend with my mother, I marveled the length of my turnpike drive at the beauty of the fall foliage along that well-traveled thoroughfare. I’ve been traveling that journey for most of my life. The four and a half hour trip can be quite boring at times and I try to keep alert for interesting scenery along the way.
This time I didn’t have to try. The autumn leaves on the trees were at peak or close to it. Through three tunnels, around sharp curves, over mountain tops – the views were spectacular! Why did I feel I needed to go to New England for fall color?
As I was driving, it struck me that this drive was different than others I have taken to visit my family. I truly love the change of driving from my current home in the Philadelphia area of relatively flat terrain to the mountainous region of my hometown in the Laurel Highlands. But, on most trips, the mountains and the plains are all pretty much shades of green or, in the winter, gray, leafless branches.
The diversity of the foliage color was striking and it got me to thinking on my long journey. Isn’t it wonderful how, when the leaves change, each bush, each tree, each shrub, each grass, has its own unique color that sets it apart from the plants around it. They pop. It is no longer a sea of green. Now there are burgundies, bright reds, yellows, oranges, surprising purples punctuated by the occasional pine or fir tree. The beauty of God’s creation is stunning.
And so it is with the people who also inhabit this planet. Isn’t it wonderful that God has made each individual as unique as a snowflake, as unmatchable as a fingerprint, as diverse as the trees that line the turnpike?
As October draws to a close, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I once again think about just how diverse the Down Syndrome population is. Yes, the physical characteristics are usually unmistakable. But get to know an individual with DS and you’ll find an amazing diversity of personality, functioning level, sense of humor, and drive to succeed in life. I’ll never forget an acquaintance asking me if Down Syndrome was a “malady” of the Caucasian race. He’d never seen any other individuals with that diagnosis with a different color skin. I had to educate him, of course. Down Syndrome is an equal opportunity genetic abnormality. And, who cares about the color of your skin anyway?
Just like those diverse fall trees we are currently enjoying, we should view the world through a different lens, appreciating the many colors, races, personalities, religions, etc. of our own human race. Down Syndrome, Autism, developmental disability, mental illness – we need to value each individual as unique with a special worth and beauty. Just the way God created us. Doesn’t that make our world such a beautiful place?