Down’s syndrome. That’s it. This child has Down’s syndrome.

This child rescued from a 3rd world country, by my colleague & former psychiatrist working with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), visits me. 

             Rather than the protracted yelling that usually results when a stranger touches them, this little boy sits in my arms calm and quiet for the first time this hour and looks up at me, wide eyed and quizzical. I poke my tongue out and a solemn face pokes one back at me.

God bless children for being so easily amused and mimicking faces back at me. Pursed fish lips have him foxed for a while and he reaches up a pudgy hand to explore the shape of my sucked in cheeks and in the process makes a sterling effort to relieve me of my glasses.

Rather than wriggling down and running off, he snuggles against me and tucks his head onto my shoulder as if quite content with this new vantage point on the world. I rest my cheek against his small woolly head, close my eyes, hug him into me for a long moment and the ache in my arms vanishes

This wasn’t an event I was going to write about– it’s practically pointless, no one is the hero in this story; there’s no dramatic moral, funny ending or anything in particular but it is a moment that is burned into my memory and when I read the recent outlandishly insensitive tweets on Down’s syndrome that Richard Dawkins has been bandying about, it seemed to need to be written.

I have no idea about Mr Dawkins’ thoughts on humanitarian workers like MSF/Doctors Without Borders, or what drives us. I imagine like most seemingly emotional subjects that altruism is something he takes rather a sceptical view of, alongside his apparent worth of people that he labels genetically “imperfect”.  Well whatever my value may or may not be in his eyes, moments of spontaneous affection feeds me, drives me, and motivates me and you don’t need to be genetically flawless to give or receive or need them.

The World’s Doctors may or may not yet find a way to prevent Downs from manifesting, but personally I think it doesn’t need to. We could cure malaria but we sadly can’t treat or look after Downs fully especially in a 3rd world country – the potential cardiac problems, the ear problems, the educational stimulus that they will need - not long term, that is beyond our scope. 

That small “imperfect” child in that small moment gave this imperfect girl what she most needed and what I think most people need most days if we are only honest with ourselves.