This is the face of a super sweet young lady. Charley knows it, too. Every Sunday he says, "Tiffanie comin' church!"
I tell him that sometimes Tiffanie will be there and sometimes not. She has a job that doesn't always let us borrow her on Sunday mornings.
That doesn't stop him from running to the car, anticipating, hoping, talking about her on the way there, then bolting from the car to find her once we land in the parking lot.
I do my best to prepare him, just in case she's working. "Don't get your hopes up, Son. She might not be here."
He says, "Yes eyare. I told her." Meaning, Tiffanie is to be at church. She is NOT to be at work. Her real job is to sit with me.
And why? Because when Tiffanie is there, he feels like a somebody.
When Tiffanie is there, he is not odd man out. Someone is there for him. Someone enjoys him. Someone puts him on equal footing.
We all need that, don't we? To be around those who make us feel like somebody. Those who never makes us feel less.
Some people such as Tiffanie (and Charley's other friend, Jordan), know how to reach across the boundaries and into the world of Down syndrome. In doing so, crossing that line pulls Charley into the parallel universe of "normal." A world that says, I'm just like you.
Most people Tiffanie's age wouldn't give Charley a second thought. Most people would go on their way, worrying about what's next for them. Most might say to themselves...Who cares if the Charley's of this world have something to look forward to? Not my problem. Dream on, big dreamer, I'm in college now. I've arrived.
But here's the thing. Tiffanie doesn't see Charley as a problem. And she includes him in her list of important things to do. She views him as friend. Charley knows it. And to him, it's everything.
How is it that some people care more about the Charley's of this world than they do about their own agenda? I wish I could clone Tiffanie (and Jordan), and put them everywhere. How wonderful that would be for the special needs people in our communities. How less isolated. How less lonely. How less different.
Study this face. This is a beautiful rare young woman. This is the face of one who sees past developmental challenges and into the heart. That's what makes the heart beat, you know. It's not what you do, how much you have, how physically attractive you are, or how much money you make that makes Charley gush. It's how you make him feel.
She is off to college in a couple of weeks, full of hopes and dreams for the future. Agendas, studies, classes, making new friends. Life is fixing to change for Tiffanie.
Now look at the face sitting beside her. This is the face of a dreamer. He may not be able to process the future, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have hopes. And dreams. Big dreams.
Today is Sunday, and this morning he's dreaming they'll come face to face.
Of course, a trip to the Chinese buffet after church with this smiling face across the table wouldn't hurt his feelings either.