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To the Grocery Bagger Who Asked About My Daughter With Down Syndrome

To the gentleman who bagged my groceries at Publix:

I want to say thank you for the tears I couldn’t hold back when I got home. Going shopping with my daughter Gianna is unfortunately intimidating and worrisome at times. As much as I like to believe all people are kind, there are many who are still ignorant and hurtful. I always get asked how old Gianna is, and when I say her age, I get an awkward moment of silence or a comment about her size: “Oh wow, she is too tiny.” The next question is usually, “Is she running around everywhere?” My reply is, “Nope, not yet.” Then another awkward moment of silence.

Many times I should use these moments as a chance to educate someone on what life with Down syndrome is all about. How she had open heart surgery at 4 months old and had trouble with gaining weight because of her condition and the time it took to recover. How individuals with Down syndrome might have a shorter stature. I want to express to them how hard she works to keep up and hit milestones as she grows. How she is more alike than different and I am OK with that, and they should be, too. Everyone is fighting their own battles, so stop passing judgment.

Today you didn’t do any of those things. You looked at her and smiled. You asked me how old she was and when I said almost 2, you said, “Wow she’s almost 2 years old, look how far she has come!” You gave her a balloon and I asked Gianna to say thank you by doing sign language. It took her a second, but she did it. I hate to admit my knowledge of sign language is limited because I only focus on signs she’s able to do. Boy if I knew what you signed to her while in the store today, I would have fallen to my knees in tears. When I got home, I texted a picture of what you signed to a friend and she replied, “That means, ‘I love you.”

Thank you for accepting my daughter for who she is. I only wish for a life filled with love, happiness and joy for her regardless of the things she can or cannot do. You proved to me today that she will have a bright future because there are still good people in this world and more importantly, right here in her community. I wish I could’ve given you a hug and said all this to you face-to-face today. Your kindness and sweet gesture meant more than you can imagine. Thank you.

I shared this letter on a local Publix supermarket’s Facebook page in April 2015, and the response was absolutely astonishing. The employee, Bob, was honored by his fellow staff, managers and even district managers. He was made employee of the month and is now a friend of mine. There is so much good in the world, and this particular event made a lot of people remember that.

Publix collage

A version of this post originally appeared on Publix’s Facebook page. Follow this journey on Facebook at Peace, Love, Gianna.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.