A smile of hope

By Chloé Kayrouh

It is said that the soul’s entrance resides in the eyes of the soul bearer. The soul holds secrets and ideas that none other but the person herself would know about. Therefore, the eyes are secret mirrors of the soul, but humans being so secretive about their life, trained their eyes to only reflect what they wanted to show and not what is actually there by fear of being judged. I was always convinced that it was impossible for someone to show their true colors and live freely enough afterwards. Yet, 5 years ago I realized that there were special people on this earth who were able to hold an ocean of tranquility behind their eyes. No anger, no doubts, no solitude, no fear…just immense amounts of love and happiness that they didn’t care to hide. Those people are wrongly labeled “people with disabilities” and fit in a scientific category made just for them under the title of “patients with Down Syndrome”.

My journey with these special people started about 5 years ago when a troop in “Groupe Champville” was recruiting new scout assistants to help with their members with special needs. The group’s name was Kuna and their motto was “Always smiling”. At the time, I wasn’t sure if my decision to join the troop was a correct one because in our society it isn’t common for Down Syndrome patients to be included in everyday activities, let alone participating in scouting activities, which by the way, require a certain level of discipline and physical abilities, that I doubted these members had.

Let me tell you how foolish I was to believe that this decision I made when I was still 17 years old, would be a mistake. It actually turned out to be one of my best decisions ever, an adventure like none other.

I remember my first meeting with them like it was yesterday. I was just a scared student back then, afraid of saying/doing something wrong because I only read about Down Syndrome patients in biology books and was trained to look at them like medical professionals would. I was taught to look for their distinctive physical traits: the eyes, the limbs, the face, the physical hypotonia (if under the age of 18) etc. And trained to deal with a mental retardation. My Kunas, however, made me give up this approach and taught me otherwise. 

On that first day, they saw an anxious young woman trying to help her chief organize an activity they would enjoy, trying to prove that she could take care of them and help them as part of her mission, when in reality, they helped her more than she did them. On my first meeting, one of our oldest members whom I had just met for the first time ever, walked up to me, looked me in the eyes and told me:  “Hello, I love you”.

To this day, I am unable to express what this sentence alone did to me back then. When she looked at me with her innocent eyes, filled with love and peace, she told me those words without looking for approbation nor reciprocation . She had nothing to gain by saying that to me since I was supposed to treat them all equally. So she just stood there and waited. I stood there too, confused. She then proceeded to hug me, turned around and went back to drawing on the paper the Chief had given her earlier. I was shocked.

How could someone you don’t know yet, say something so powerful that easily?! Anyone would count at least 6 months after meeting someone before saying such words and I personally would stutter the entire sentence if I really meant it. How was it possible to be that open to vulnerability without fearing being hurt in return?

The answer resides in their own nature. You see, people with Down Syndrome are human beings who look fragile but in reality are way stronger than we think. My experience with them taught me a lot about them. They don’t fear their emotions. Unlike us. They accept them and are not scared of showing how they feel. They will most of the time choose to love and smile directly instead of getting sucked in the whole “getting to know someone” cliché . They’re very direct too. They know what they want, how they want it and will let you know exactly what you mean to them in the most unpredictable ways. They simply have a gift, the gift of love and constant happiness. 

Today, I’m not the same assistant I was 5 years ago. As I’m writing this article, I am both Chief and friend of my Kunas. These 5 years have been nothing but purely blissful experiences and in two years when my time comes to hand over my position to the next generation, I’ll make sure to pass down my love for them and dedication to make it known to the whole world that these people are caregivers not takers, who look directly at your soul and smile, a smile of hope.

Chief Chloé Kayrouh

Champville Group

Group Kuna

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