I mark my calendar a year in advance for the annual Sisters of Life Gala in New York City. If you have been fortunate enough to attend, you understand why. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I encourage you to get there at least once in your life. It’s a magical evening that renews my hope for the future of our world. My favorite time of the night (other than sipping champagne with good friends I don’t see often enough) is when Mother Agnes Mary Donovan asks all the Sisters to enter the ballroom. Seeing over a hundred of these young, bright, joyful women, who are giving their lives to Christ and the people they serve, sends chills down my spine and brings tears to my eyes. It reminds me that God is in charge and He is calling people to lead others to Him. Everything is going to be okay because the Sisters of Life are here!
Each year the Sisters have a small gift for their guests—e.g., an inspiring book, a lovely piece of artwork, a personal note penned by one of the Sisters. This year, each guest received a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book titled Look Again, Thomas!. On their website, the Sisters describe this book as follows:
Put on your “seeing glasses” and take a trip with Angelo and Thomas through forests and ponds, snow-covered hills and sunbaked deserts—and find surprising discoveries along the way! Follow Thomas as he begins looking beyond the surface of things and learns something new about people.
A book about goodness, beauty, and love, this story reminds us that when we ask God to help us see people through His eyes, we open ourselves up to the gift of wonder.
I had the privilege of meeting the real Angelo at the Sisters’ annual Advent concert a few years ago. He is the cutest, most delightful little boy! You can’t help but gravitate toward him. Angelo has Down syndrome and is a special gift to all he encounters. Look Again, Thomas! is a heartwarming book that depicts how God puts special people in our lives who show us so many wonderful things in our world that we miss. These gifts enlighten and enrich us as individuals.
Five-and-a-half years ago, I was lucky enough to give birth to a little girl with Down syndrome. At the time, however, I didn’t consider myself very lucky. We are taught by secular society that Down syndrome is something to fear, something to be eliminated at all costs. A doctor telling you that your newborn baby has Down syndrome is a scary experience when looking at it through the eyes of the world and not the eyes of God. How foolish I was!
In the years since Maggie’s birth, I have learned (and am still learning) of the joy and insight that she, and others like her, bring to our lives. She has taught me so much about love, happiness, compassion, and how to treat others.
At first it seemed like an odd coincidence to me, but after witnessing Maggie interact with many strangers, I cannot deny that she senses things in others which the rest of us either do not or are too busy to pay attention to—from the neighbor with cancer Maggie had be dragged away from on Halloween, to the crying baby she must hug and whose drool she must diligently wipe, to the sibling in the trouble corner who also needs a “Maggie hug.” Maggie has this innate ability to sense when people need to be comforted and just reaches out, no holds barred. You see, Maggie doesn’t look at others and wonder, “What can they do for me now?” or “What have they done for me lately?” She just loves. A Maggie hug makes your day no matter what the world has dished out to you.
Last fall, we enrolled Maggie in kindergarten at the Catholic Montessori school our other children attended, a little nervous that she might be the only child there with special needs. Much to our relief, not only is she blissfully happy and doing well, but the teachers and parents rave about how happy they are that she is there. To quote one of her classmates, “Maggie can’t talk, but she’s a lotta fun.” The principal told me how grateful the parents are because their children will grow up knowing how beautiful people with Down syndrome are instead of being afraid of them. It’s a shame that more children in our world don’t have this experience.
Most children who are diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome are aborted before they see the light of day. These beautiful creatures bring so much goodness and happiness to our world, I can’t help but believe it would be a better place if these lives were allowed to be born into it.
Look Again, Thomas! is a wonderful vehicle to initiate discussion regarding children with disabilities. It teaches not to avoid or dismiss them, but to realize and appreciate the gift to us they are and the knowledge and insight they bring. I encourage you to go to www.sistersoflife.org and order a copy of this book for your children, your grandchildren, or even to donate to your local schools. It is a treasure worth sharing!
—Mary Kay Barket lives on Long Island with her husband Bruce and her four children. She is a full-time mom and a part-time actuarial consultant and reinsurance underwriter in lower Manhattan. She and her children are self-proclaimed Sisters of Life “groupies.”