This I Believe

Erin - Lithia, Florida
Entered on May 3, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope, illness

This I Believe

This I believe…that our greatest challenges in life serve to strengthen our character and increase our capacity for joy. This is a lesson I learned as a child and it has remained true through my adulthood. When I was twelve, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. For the next 14 years, he battled the disease. Sometimes he would go years without symptoms, but inevitably, the cancer would return. Throughout his life, my dad rarely let cancer slow him down. He continued to make plans, to hope, to dream, and to work toward the future, until he died at age 53.

Through my dad’s example I learned not to be too concerned with the small details that bog us all down in life. I learned to value the important things like family and friends. Mostly I learned that life will always have some sadness so we must choose to find joy wherever we can.

This attitude has been a guiding principle of my life. This is especially true in the case of my daughter Annabelle, who was born with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a chromosome abnormality that causes delays in development, mental impairment, and various health problems. At first, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of having a baby who was different than other babies. But then I would reach over, pick Annabelle up, and realize that even though there would be times of sadness through her life, there would also be times of great happiness. I decided I was not going to dwell on the negative aspects of Annabelle’s condition and miss out on all the joy that was sure to come along with her.

Annabelle is now 20 months old. I can honestly say she is the delight of my life. Yes, she has some health concerns, yes, she struggles with developmental challenges, but she is nearly always full of sunshine. She doesn’t mind that it has taken her twice as long as most kids to simply roll over, or sit up, or crawl. Annabelle is the perfect example of someone who is delighted just to be. Her smile reminds me everyday how lucky I am and how joy can be found in the least likely places.