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Holland or Italy?

By , Pewaukee, WI
I live my life in Holland, but most people live in Italy. I’m referring to a short essay, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley that compares having a baby to planning a trip to Italy. A trip to Italy is glamorous and exciting - the perfect place. But what if things don’t go as planned? What if the trip to Italy is diverted and you end up somewhere else? What if the child is born with a disability? Things did not go as planned in my family when my brother Andrew was born with Down syndrome. I live in Holland instead of Italy – but that’s OK. Having Andrew in my life has shaped who I am today.
It wasn’t until I was older when I realized Andrew was different. I started to notice people staring at Andrew in public and I would ask my parents why. Andrew looks and acts different than his peers. Sometimes he is unable to express himself and often gets frustrated and cries instead of figuring out how to explain something to us. I feel compassion for Andrew because I know he is trying his hardest to explain to us what he wants but he can’t find the right words. Seeing Andrew struggle through life has taught me to have compassion for others. When I am in public, and there is an individual acting different from the “norm,” I feel compassion for that person because of Andrew. Andrew has taught me to accept people for who they are and not to judge people because they are different.
With Andrew you can never have enough patience. Andrew has taught my whole family how to be more patient. He loves to help out around the house and do the grocery shopping. However, when he helps out, the process takes much longer. I know allowing Andrew to help and contribute to our family is very important to him so I patiently wait for him to unload the groceries or vacuum the carpet in his own way. Life is slower in Holland than in Italy, but that’s OK.
When I was younger, I had the “If Only” disease. All I could think about was, “If only Andrew could talk better,” “If only my family could be like everyonene else,” “If only Andrew didn’t have Down syndrome.” But now I have come to accept and welcome his disability and differences. I enjoy all of the laughs my family and I share because of Andrew. He really is a special boy. Not only have I become more accepting of Andrew, I learned to accept differences in people in my school and community. I am hurt when I see someone being picked on for who they are. My instinct is to stick up for that person because that is what I would do, and what I would want others to do for Andrew.
Having a brother with Down syndrome has taught me to take a step back from life and focus on the things that will make me a better person. Yes, my mission trips had an effect on who I am, but those two weeks can’t compare to the effect Andrew has had on me my entire life. He is my inspiration to do well in school, sports, and every other aspect in life. Most people want to live in Italy – fast paced, beautiful sights, famous monuments but I’ve come to appreciate Holland. In Holland, you get to casually stroll through the park and observe the beautiful nature and windmills. I am more patient and kind and I show compassion for people because of Andrew – I thank him for that! I love living in Holland.





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