The last time we saw the girl who will always be the Joy of our world, she came to our hometown, and we had a summer PARTY all up in here.
The literal kind, where we threw a bonfire and hosted a dinner and got together with the families who know and love the family who adopted our second host child, Joy.
And the figurative kind, where, in the period of four days, we and our “Kreh cousins” went swimming and fishing and backyard Nerf warring and nighttime light rocket launching. Where we set alarms for 1 a.m. to view front yard meteor showers, and where we stayed up way too late doing life to the tunes of crickets in rocking chairs on front porches. Where together, we put out lanterns-turned-kitchen fires and cleaned up Mom beast bus vomit. And where we talked and we played and we danced and we laughed and then we nearly cried when we had to end it all and say our goodbyes.
Any family willing to cross an ocean for a girl they’d never met to provide a life she’d never dreamed is OUR kind of crazy. And WE are crazy not only about the incredible girl who will always be our forever niece/cousin, but about her FAMILY who has become OURS.
This time, we drove to them, and together, our families celebrated Down Syndrome Awareness Month with our family’s first ever Buddy Walk.
As we gathered with Joy’s family downtown Savannah in a tent Angela set up with beautiful posters she and Joy designed, I couldn’t help but just smile at the JOY that filled Forsyth Park.
All around us were lovies with sparkly extra chromosomes, and no one was WALKING to their positions as they prepared to march one mile around in the park in honor of that beautiful accessory all of them sported.
They were RUNNING. They were DANCING. They were hugging their ways to starting lines and laughing with all the friends who had shown up that day in support of them.
Superhero 2, who, after Joy now seeks out friends with sparkly extra chromosomes, was basically in Heaven.
In our little tent, family after family showed up for this one beautiful girl, the girl who turned our worlds upside down just two years ago and caused our boys to nickname her diagnosis “Up Syndrome.”
Families who had only known Joy since she came home from China in March.
Families who had only known the Krehs since they moved to their town last year.
Families who had flown in from different states just to attend the event.
Families who had woken sleepy superheroes and driven an hour across town.
All gathered to celebrate Joy.
At one point, as families dressed children in their matching Buddy Walk shirts and pinned their Team Joy buttons proudly to their shirts, Angela, who has now become one of my dearest friends, grabbed my arm.
“Look at this,” she said, pointing to the jovial gathering around us. “It’s really pretty amazing. One year ago, Joy was just another number in an orphanage. Today, she has an entire team.”
I looked up, and then I choked up as I saw Joy playing and laughing with the superheroes she now calls siblings and tossing balloons with Superhero 2 and waving at the entire tent full of people who showed up not for Down syndrome, but for HER.
For the girl who, in six months, defied every odd.
Obtained almost perfect receptive English.
Learned to speak and sign phrases in English and even learned to say and write her English name.
One year ago an orphan, one considered so invaluable that her orphanage hadn’t even assembled an adoption file for her until she was hosted because, as a child with Down syndrome, she was considered “unadoptable.”
Today, in a family. In a community. Spurred on and cheered on by an entire crowd of fans.
And the reminder was so potent and so striking and so powerful.
When Down syndrome has a NAME, a FACE, an identity beyond just a sparkly extra chromosome, it also has a TEAM.
So thankful God gave us the privilege of being part of Joy’s.