Pamela De Almeida is the mom of a happy, loving toddler named Sophia—who just happens to be a little different from other children her age. Her differences highlight plenty of her interactions, both with children and adults alike. A recent encounter at a coffee shop, though, reminded Pam that not everyone has trouble getting past those differences.
Like any other toddler, Sophia smiles at everyone, spends tons of time discovering the world around her and, most importantly, loves hanging out with her mom.
She was born with Down syndrome, though, so she isn’t always met with the warmest of receptions.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by a partial or full third copy of chromosome 21.
Individuals with Down syndrome are known for their overwhelmingly kind natures and can function in society with varying degrees of ease or difficulty. Recently, a young woman with Down syndrome even competed for the Miss Minnesota U.S.A. pageant, and many individuals with higher-functioning forms of the disorder can hold regular jobs and attend post-secondary education.
Their disorder causes developmental delays, though, and abnormal speech patterns—and most noticeably, it is characterized by very distinct physical features.
De Almeida was sitting with Sophia at a Tim Hortons one day when she felt the stares her daughter attracts everywhere she goes.
While it’s a common occurrence for Sophia to deal with rude stares and judgmental whispers, De Almeida admitted in a Facebook post that the two women whispering about her daughter and rudely looking over bothered her more than normal that day.
Then she saw an older couple walking up to them, and, thinking they just wanted to take a peek at Sophia too, De Almeida was all set to tell them off. But the frustrated mom didn’t have time for any harsh comments.
Instead, though, the couple brought her to tears.
The older gentleman reached out to give Sophia a high five and a handshake, treating her like most adults would any other young child.
Then, he turned to De Almeida.
“I have a story for you,” he began, “but I am afraid I can’t get through it without choking up.”
De Almeida was all ears.
The man revealed that he had recently watched a woman on the news defend her right to give birth to her newborn infant, who had been diagnosed with severe defects in utero. Her doctor, she had explained, had suggested multiple times that she terminate the pregnancy; instead, she wanted the world to know how adamantly she had believed in carrying to term.
In light of that story, he wanted to congratulate De Almeida for Sophia. “You never know a person’s impact on the world,” he explained, “until you give them the chance.”
De Almeida shared the encounter later on social media, because it moved her to tears. That man, she revealed, was the first “complete stranger” to congratulate her on her beautiful young daughter. She’d never had a stranger praise her for Sophia’s birth before, and it touched her more than she realized was possible.
“Her WORTH, her VALUE, her BEAUTY,” De Almeida wrote, those were what the older man saw in Sophia—and while so few still recognize that, it was a hugely positive experience for the mom.
She didn’t offer to buy the man coffee, and they didn’t sit down for hours of discussion—but despite their brief encounter, the man had an immeasurable impact on a complete stranger’s day. That, as De Almeida explained, is true kindness.