A few weeks ago, Greta and I were taking inventory of the backyard to see which flowers were growing and where the garden needed attention. She spotted a dandelion "flower" sprouting up in the wheelbarrow and decided to transplant it to a more prominent flower bed. With shovel in hand, she carefully moved the flower to my rosebed across the yard and watered it. She was so proud of her gardening efforts that I left it and didn't tell her it was just a weed.
While working in the garden this afternoon, I noticed that her flower had grown to about 7 inches tall and its florets were getting ready to bloom. I pulled it out of the ground and showed it to her. "Look how big it's grown! Time to pull it out... since it's just a weed."
She gave me that serious look of disappointment. Instantly, I realized the message I'd given her was that undesirable flowers were called weeds and were not worthy of being in my garden of real flowers.
I replanted the dandelion.
I apologized and told her the yellow flowers would look nice among my pink cyclamen, pale yellow roses and bright red snapdragons. She seemed very pleased.
It was then that I was struck with the thought that our society views people with Down syndrome as weeds among us flowers -- often plucked before they are allowed to bloom. It's shocking that 9 out of 10 women will choose to terminate their baby after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
I'm not saying that every "weed" in my garden will now be blooming, but I thought of how ingrained we are with the idea of perfection, even when it comes to flowers in a garden. Have you ever seen dandelions blooming en masse? They make a beautiful, fragrant carpet of yellow in a grassy meadow which are adored by bees and some butterflies for their sweet nectar. Once the flower has withered, children pluck the fluffy white seeded heads and blow to make wishes. But it must have more purpose than that!
I looked up "dandelions" on the internet.
"The dandelion is one of the most common and recognizable weeds. The official name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, which means "official remedy for disorders". There are many common names for dandelions, including priest's crown, Irish daisy, monk's head, telltime, blowball, and lion's tooth."
Here's something more...
Dandelions can be beneficial to a garden ecosystem as well as to human health. Dandelions attract beneficial ladybugs and provide early spring pollen for their food. In a study done at the University of Wisconsin, experimental plots with dandelions had more ladybugs than dandelion free plots, and fewer pest aphids, a favorite food of the ladybugs. Dandelions long roots aerate the soil and enable the plant to accumulate minerals, which are added to the soil when the plant dies.
OK, now I'm starting to feel bad...
Not only are dandelions good for your soil, they are good for your health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a serving of uncooked dandelion leaves contains 280 percent of an adult's daily requirement of beta carotene as well as more than half the requirement of vitamin C. Dandelions are also rich in vitamin A. Dandelions are also used as herbal remedies. The white sap from the stem and root is used as a topical remedy for warts. The whole plant is used as a diuretic and liver stimulant.
So my point in all this is... and there is a point...
To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 KJV
That single dandelion has a purpose, as do all dandelions. They may not look like other flowers and may not be as fragrant as other flowers, but they are more like flowers than different and they have a great purpose in life's garden. So, I'm not pulling that dandelion out. I'm going to let it be a dandelion. And at the right time, I will pluck it up, but probably not before it gets a fuzzy little seeded head and I let Greta blow her wish across my yard.
People with Down syndrome may not look or learn the same as most people, but I know for certain that each one of them is here for a "purpose under heaven" and they have special gifts to share. This is the message we need to spread. They truly are more like us than different if we just take the time to look.
Dandelion info from: http://www.pesticide.org/dandelions.html