Penny was six months old. I was reading Time Magazine, and
there was an article about Carolyn Bergeron and Sujeet Desai, two adults with
Down syndrome getting married. I frowned. For one thing, I didn’t like the idea of Penny, and people like
Penny, being so different that their marriages would make the national news.
But I also felt skeptical. Although they lived independently, Carrie and Suj
still relied upon their parents and aids to provide economic and practical
support. If they couldn’t cook for themselves, I wondered, was it really a
I showed the article to Peter without stating my
reservations. He finished reading with a wide smile.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. Penny was in the room with us. He
leaned over and said, “It would be an honor to walk you down the aisle.”
“But don’t you think there’s something a little strange?
It’s like being happy that two middle schoolers got married.”
He shook his head a little and said gently, “I don’t think
so. There’s a difference between intelligence and maturity. These two might not
be as intelligent as most of the 20-somethings we know, but that doesn’t mean
they aren’t mature enough to get married.”
His words have stayed with me. They’ve made me think about
my own intelligence and how I sometimes use it as a foil to hide immaturity.
They’ve made me think about my spiritual state–about how Jesus tells us to
“change and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3).
But the writer of Hebrews instructs us to become mature (Hebrews 5:13-14).
I wonder sometimes whether couples like Suj and Carrie can teach me about that
unusual but commendable combination of maturity and childlikeness (which, by the way, is not the same as being childish, and by which I do not at all mean to suggest that individuals with Down syndrome are perpetual children).
Last week, a friend sent a link to the trailer of Monica and
a documentary about another couple with Down syndrome who get married. This
time, I watched it with tears in my eyes, grateful that I can hope that one day
Peter will walk Penny down the aisle, and grateful, once again, for all I have
to learn and receive from people with gifts and abilities that are different
from my own.