Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Far She Reaches

Yet another post I've started and stopped about a dozen times. The subject of Ruby and how she affects those around her is a concept that is played out before us weekly, sometimes daily. And it's in so many different ways that every time I think I have a handle on it, something else happens that makes me realize that my perspective was stopping me from seeing other angles that were equally, if not more, amazing.

Since her birth - since the night she was born - Ruby has been changing those around her. It started with us, Lehr and I. She showed us right away that while she carried an extra chromosome, she was still 'just' a baby. During that hospital stay, her diagnosis forced a couple we're very close to into this community. Then we returned home and allowed her to change others around us, one at a time: my mom, one of our pastors, more friends, more family.
Most of our friends and family had no prior connection to anyone like Ruby, so she became their ambassador through this diagnosis. And she did it in the most gentle way. Just as we didn't know about Ruby's diagnosis when we first saw her, almost every person we introduced Ruby to didn't know until we told them. Ruby was sure to put everyone she met under her spell, captivating them, not letting on that she had an extra chromosome until at least 20-30 minutes after they'd been able to hold her and connect with her.

A few weeks after she was born, we made the news more public by sharing her full birth story on the blog. And before I knew it, people from everywhere, friends of friends of friends were 'friending' me on Facebook, all for the purpose of following my photos and one-liners about Ruby. It became so much that I ended up creating a separate "Team Ruby" page just for her adoring fans. I still get messages and comments on her page daily from people I've never met, remarking how much they love learning about Ruby.
When we started planning for the Atlanta Buddy Walk, I hoped we would have a group of friends join us. And I prayed that we would raise a respectable amount of money for the local agencies and organizations. We were blown away - BLOWN AWAY - by the amount of money pouring in. Every week more and more donations were made in Ruby's name. Until the night before the walk, Ruby supporters raised the 5th most funds in all of Atlanta. And Team Ruby walkers? We topped out at 100. Unbelievable. On the morning of the walk, red Team Ruby shirts were seen all around our church, and our pastor even mentioned Team Ruby and the Buddy Walk in his sermon.
As we zoom in, Ruby has worked her way very deeply into the hearts and lives of several people. Some of these friends are experiencing Ruby's diagnosis for the first time through her and some are furthering their heart for the Down syndrome community. Sometimes this comes in the form of acquaintances and friends (both female and male!) trying to sneak in snuggles at church. Sometimes it's friends of mine, vying for a chance to Ruby-sit for an hour or so. Sometimes it manifests itself as kids at church lying on the floor and playing with her. And sometimes it's the way I cannot walk through Publix, or sit down in a restaurant, or go to the post office without someone following us and starting up a conversation with her because they can't break eye contact with her.
One of Ruby's strongest connections with someone she only sees weekly, at best, is with Russell. A boy who Lehr and I have had the pleasure of seeing grow up over the past 8-ish years. He has always been a rock star older kid (he's just a little older than Eli) to our family, but what we've seen when he's with Ruby has brought us more comfort than anything. Russell's mom recently shared with us that he has been drawn to kids with T21 through most of his life. And much like his connection with Ruby, his interactions with these other children have been magnetic. She wrote what I'm trying to say WAY better than I ever could:

Russell asks almost daily if there is any "news" about Ruby on her Facebook page. Funny pictures, cute videos. "Anything today, Mom?" I love that they have this forehead thing happening right now on the floor after church.  Magnets. Russell loves Ruby. I do believe that God goes before us, prepares people to have influence in our lives and allows us to be specifically loved by those who might not be obvious choices. I believe that God has prepared Russell to specifically love Ruby and kiddos just like her. What a delight she is to our lives. To his life, especially as he gets to love in a specific way that God crafted him. It's not an accident that we are friends. Not an accident that God made my boy the way He did and your girl the way He did and they dig each other. Ruby has a huge fan club.  HUGE. But I truly believe she will have a life long friend and advocate in Russell. Thanks for letting him love on her, manhandle her, carry her around when unnecessary, get all up in her face.... I think God made him that way.

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