Remi is one-and-a-half years old, and for one year of that he has absolutely stolen my heart. Exactly a year ago I wrote a post about what God taught me just by staring into his big blue eyes. I tried not to creep out his parents by how infatuated I was with their child, but I think they were pretty used to it from his many other adoring fans. There is a beauty to his simplicity that simply draws people in. Not a week went by that I did not wiggle my way into their home, faithfully working to become a favored babysitter. And now, as the year comes to a close, I realize what a gift it has all been.
One of the most beautiful parts of Remi is that he has Down's Syndrome. It's just an extra chromosome, but it affects mental and physical capacities in the few who are born with it. Anyone who knows someone with Down's Syndrome also knows that these people are somehow born with an innate and unshakable joy. And in a year where darkness has been prevalent in so many places and ways, the light of Remi's smile has been a little ray of Jesus in my life. On the days when grades seemed overwhelming, Remi showed me of the joy in bathwater. In the emotions of discouragement with the state of the world, Remi reminded me of the joy in music. Through the mundane monotony of school and daily life, Remi demonstrated that each small, repetitive, over-and-over-again step is a process toward something beautiful. When I was afraid to open my heart to anyone else and risk the pain, Remi's whole little person knocked on my heart's door until I could do nothing but throw it wide open.
People talk about Down's Syndrome as the "Scenic Route," and it's a beautiful analogy to the reality that every milestone takes longer to achieve, and is thus all the more celebrated. There have been moments this year that were so worth waiting for. Back in September I was propping Remi up on his knees and moving his hands to teach him to crawl; now he races in laps around the dorm lounge. A year ago, his floppy body in my lap reading a book was precious; now he points at the pictures and makes the animals' sounds and is ready for the motions of the coming pages often before I get to the page. I was a stranger in September who he made his shy little faces toward; now I'm often the familiar one in the room, and I treasure every time he has nestled into my shoulder. There is almost nothing more rewarding than to walk into the room and watch the giant smile spread across his face.
But there is no doubt that this love I feel comes from more than just this precious boy. From Matt and Chelly, I have experienced some of the most faithful hospitality and willingness to open their lives to a new, temporary person. Even though they both work in stressful, demanding, people-saturated jobs, they have given countless afternoons and evenings of letting me come sit on their floor with their baby, soaking in their wisdom, honesty, and genuine care. I have learned this year that I am so, so slow to trust people, always assuming that they don't mean what they say, that they don't really want me, that I'm inconveniencing them. But Matt and Chelly have spoken against those thoughts over and over. They have sought me out. They have given far beyond what was necessary. They have spoken words of encouragement that were uncalled for, and remembered things about me I never expected.
I have no idea what this year would have looked like without my crew of best friends. They have been one of the greatest gifts God could have given me. It will be a long summer of missing them, but I can't wait to meet the newest brother who will be here when I return!
Thank you, my dear Keller family.