Good Morning, Walgreens!

By on in

On our way to church one Saturday morning, Nicholas made a request for some music or a Bible story CD or something to listen to. “No,” I said. “Not this time, Nick. Let's just have it quiet as we get ready for Mass.”

As we drove along, I could sense Nick getting restless in the back seat. Finally, as he turned toward the window and spotted a drugstore, he blurted out, “Good morning, Walgreens!”

The whole episode reminded me of that scene in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus was entering Jerusalem and the Pharisees were trying to shush the crowd. “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out,” was Jesus’ reply. And if stones can’t help fill the silent void when joy overflows, neither can a nine-year-old boy who is excited about making his First Holy Communion next Sunday. Good morning, Walgreens, indeed!

Nicholas has Down syndrome, and he is exuberant, naturally upbeat, and gregarious—all traits commonly associated with Down’s kids. Every day is truly a gift, and they treat it as such. Every encounter, a privilege; every discovery, a wonder. And the drive to Mass? Not a time for silence, but a time for celebration and joy and flinging out greetings to anyone (and anything) within earshot.

Are there particular challenges associated with raising a child with Down’s?  I suppose, but I’d prefer to put it this way: That Down syndrome poses particular challenges to those affected by it and those who love them. Sure, there are special therapies and sometimes special surgeries and medications—all true. But raising any child is challenging—and every child has particularities, some more challenging than others.

Besides, the child is always a gift—the supreme gift of marriage, as the Council fathers taught us in Gaudium et Spes. And their status as supreme gift is not affected in the least by what and how many “particular challenges” they come with. Unlike our sad culture that has adopted a consumerist mindset toward children—expressed in its slavish devotion to contraception, reproductive technologies, and abortion among other things—our Faith affirms the inherent dignity of every child, every human person, no matter their physical or other limitations.

And Nick? He is truly a conduit of smiles—you can’t help it when you meet him. I noted already that he’s receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion for the first time next Sunday, and I can’t tell you how many strangers he’s informed. Catholic or not, can you imagine receiving that kind of news from a kid like Nick without a grin and a rush of warmth? Maybe some tears even? And how long can I be down in the dumps, no matter how hard my day, if my Nick comes over, plops into my lap, and asks me to read another saint story or a chapter from Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Not long, that’s for sure.

Very briefly, say just a matter of hours after his birth, my wife Nancy and I considered how we’d adjust to having a child with Down’s. But you know what? It’s really just the same as how we adjusted to all our other newborns. It’s adjusting to receiving a gift, a fantastic, glorious gift. And that’s a welcome challenge any time.


Photos: Nick Burton Photography

Rick Becker

About Rick Becker

Rick Becker and his wife Nancy are parents to Nick and six other children. The Beckers reside in South Bend, and are parishioners at St. Matthew Cathedral. Rick teaches nursing at Bethel College, and he and his wife serve as Co-Directors of Religious Education at St. Matt’s.