Participatory Journalism:
A Bit of Heaven Granted

by Deanna S. Martin

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    Of my parents’ three daughters, I am the middle one. It wasn’t until the dawn of a January morning that a fourth child, a son, was born. David seemed just like any other newborn to me—tiny, chubby, and fun. By virtue of my being merely a first-grader when he was born, my parents found no reason for telling me then that my baby brother was “different.” Hindsight tells me that it would only have compounded their already-numbed feelings to explain to me what they could hardly believe themselves. Besides, I was too young, and the word mongoloid would not have meant a thing to me. All I knew, or cared about then, was that my little brother was beautiful!

    We grew to love him. He was a kind, loving, and cheerful child. It was not until I was in the sixth grade that David’s difference caused any concern to me at all. It was at the end of that school year that my class was visited by the principal. She asked those of us who had brothers or sisters who were or would be five years old next fall to raise our hands. I raised mine, and just as she counted it, I was prompted to ask something. I hesitated a split second, thinking that I should not even bother her with such a question. But, as she counted my hand, I asked, “Does this school allow mongoloids?” When I heard the words, “No, I’m sorry,” I took my hand down, wondering numbly why they would not let my brother come to their school. My naiveté about David had been shattered.

    As the years passed, David was continually shunned by the majority of the neighborhood children. They had been warned by fearful parents. More than once our front door was darkened by an irate mother who told my mother to keep David away from her young ones.

    It often seemed that if I would look into his eyes, I could see him peering over his inner wall of quietness with the tender, smiling eyes of someone who really knows a great deal more than will ever be credited to him. I wished that I could step inside that wall and talk with him for just one hour.

    These past years have seen my family pass through many sorrows because of David’s difference. But to say that his presence with us has been destructive would be false. Rather, his presence has been like a powerful steel cable strongly binding our family together. As a family we are close, and because David is a part of it, we have learned real love, sweet patience, a pure and undefiled faith, and a tender, guileless approach to life. Still a child, even though he has passed into the age of adulthood, he continues in his innocent state. He is my brother. He is my friend. Heaven itself was granted to my family in this one single gift.

    I know that in the bright hereafter I will finally be allowed to pass through David’s wall. I hope he will take me by the hand and sit with me, and I will ask him to share his world with me—his bit of heaven.

    Illustrated by Diane Pierce