My sons Christopher and Jason are my two biggest gifts in life. Even though Christopher is no longer physically here, I see his beautiful eyes, elliptically shaped in his Down syndromeness, ways, heaven sent and trusting eyes and I feel that incredible tug of sweetness, that unique feeling of motherly love that has inspired me since the day he was born. Christopher was my first son, my first great gift. My second great gift came seven years later with Jason.
When my Christopher came into my life, I was told by many that I should not expect much, that I should institutionalize him, that he would live a short life, that I should forget about him. I would play with him during the day and watch him as he slept, seeing the peace in his face and the promise of love that he always inspired.
I have gone through so many changes in my life, trying to forge a new path forward, from abuse survivor to dancer to disability advocate, a fundraiser and a motivational speaker. Every step on that path has been one that has been cushioned and uplifted by the deep and abiding bond with my sons. This is something inside all parents, all mothers: the overwhelming love for our children that can push us to be better people and overcome obstacles.
Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience, full of hopes and fears and future plans. Christopher was the first great gift of my life. At his birth, all that everyone wanted to tell me were the challenges and problems. Even the U.S. government tried to label him and exclude him, simply because of who he was: a boy with Down syndrome. What they did not see was who he was, an incredible boy with deep love and warmth who helped to inspire a movement for change. He was a child who taught his family compassion for others and who trained his little brother to become his hero and a hero to so many special children.
Without Christopher, I would not have become who I am. It was Christopher’s inspiration, the sweet moments of his playtime, the warmth of his ever-present hugs, the love in his eyes, that forged the path to my raising a billion dollars to support inclusion of people with disabilities and help to build community organizations across the continent.
Motherhood strips away our fears. It does not allow us to be silent in the face of harm to our children and our loved ones. We have no choice but to achieve and to make the change when we look into the eyes of our children, and we know what they need to live a good life.
It can be so easy for momentary distractions to turn us away from what is most important: the bonds of love that hold us together and allow us to dream big. But when we turn to look into our children’s eyes and to feel the warmth of their arms in a hug, the truth is there, and it remains: the power of love.
About Linda Smith
Linda Smith is a fearless and tenacious non-profit fundraiser, author and motivational speaker. She is a survivor of child abuse, a philanthropist who has raised over one billion dollars for charity, and a disability advocate inspired by her son, Christopher, who was born with Down syndrome. Her incredible journey and brave heart will be detailed in her upcoming book, Unwanted.
Contact [email protected] to connect with Linda for information regarding speaking opportunities, disability resources and Las Vegas fundraising efforts.