Will and Kate Strive Toward Creating Acceptance of Down Syndrome
When Prince Charles wed Princess Diana in 1981, the whole world watched and wondered what kind of princess she would be. Young, naïve and relatively unknown to the world, Diana began her journey as a princess determined to make a difference. Throughout her all too short life, Diana made sure to take on causes that were meaningful and to set an example for her two young boys, William and Harry. As she worked tirelessly to promote AIDS research and the removal of land mines, and made countless visits to children’s hospitals, it became apparent that Diana was indeed working to make a difference. She made a point of spending time with those society discarded, and ultimately became the “People’s Princess.”
Now, at the age of 31, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton are following in his mother’s footsteps and are making a difference in a similarly powerful way. When William and Kate married in 2011, they asked well-wishers to donate money to a charity in their honor instead of purchasing gifts. According to the Associated Press, the couple donated $1.6 million to 26 charities that have “particular resonance" and "reflect issues in which the couple have been particularly interested in their lives to date.”
And last week William and Kate made steps toward creating acceptance of those with Down syndrome when they graciously welcomed a gift from Tazia Fawley, who is an artist with Down syndrome. Fawley spent six months creating a beautiful brightly colored painting of Rupert the Bear (a classic children’s character) flying over a bridge in the Bristol Balloon Festival in England. When the director of Heart & Sold, an organization that promotes artists with Down syndrome, sent a photograph of the artwork to the couple, she asked if they would consider displaying it in their home. Not too long afterward, she received an enthusiastic note from the couple saying they would gladly take the work of art.
As a young girl I remember a sweet lady named Lillian who attended my church. I always knew that Lillian was different, but I never knew why until many years later. Guessing that she was in her mid-thirties, I always saw her wearing those fancy church-lady hats with feathers and pearls, and the brightest shade of red lipstick that spread just slightly beyond her lips. Lillian was always smiling and laughing and sang louder than anyone in church, even if she was slightly off-key. Lillian lived with her mother and had a small job at a packaging plant that employed people with disabilities. Lillian made a little spending money, had lots of friends and never complained. She was also very smart. I remember once her mother left her for a while to run errands and instructed her not to turn on the stove. Her mother took longer than expected, and when she returned Lillian had made herself a grilled cheese sandwich. When her mother began scolding her for using the stove, Lillian quickly interrupted her and told her that she didn’t use the stove; she had made the sandwich, wrapped it in foil and placed in on the radiator to toast it. Pure genius!
Will and Kate are forging their own path toward charitable giving and doing good for others. Shedding a positive light on the abilities of those whom society deems different and quite often unacceptable will hopefully bring about more opportunities for the Tazia Fawleys of the world to share their unique gifts with the world.