Gently we buckled our tiny blessing into her pale pink car seat, unaffected by the sweltering heat of the August day. She was only one week old, but somehow it felt like months had passed since her birth. Our emotions were mixed as we were visibly elated to be able to bring our first-born child home, yet, I must confess, inwardly we were anxious, fearful and sorrowful. Sorrowful over the news that she was born with Down syndrome and the perceived idea that we had lost something, perhaps a mother's dream or secret ambition. As we began to drive away from the hospital, we were ignorantly unaware of the influence and greatness that lay quietly nestled in our back seat; Gabrielle, our beautiful daughter. From the moment she was born, Gabrielle had the ability to cause us to look at life differently. She lives life without apology. If she loves you, you will no doubt know that she does. If you are hurting, she will be the first to be there to console you. If you need something, she will give it freely. She, unlike us, is unhindered by the prejudices of others. Gabrielle is “genuine.” She loves honestly, speaks freely, laughs heartily and dances endlessly. She has a hidden ability to inspire others without her ever knowing that she has. Her life has caused others to slow down, try harder, love more and go farther. Her presence has also challenged others to do great things. Our love for her moved us to adopt our son with Down syndrome. Her five siblings are grateful for what she has taught them. One desires to be a special education teacher. Another writes and speaks publicly about the impact his sister has had on him and advocates for those with special needs. Our family, church and community have rallied together annually to host a festival where we honor those with special needs celebrating their lives and encouraging their parents. Adoptions have been inspired, international relationships established, friendships built, families comforted and the list goes on. One little girl has caused us to live larger. Once again I will go for a ride on a hot August day, but it will be without sorrow or fear. It will be with genuine admiration and appreciation for my daughter who happens to have Down syndrome. No longer will she be the helpless little baby, but an influential young woman celebrating her 18th birthday. She will have the seat of honor riding sidekick next to me, as I adoringly look on, filled with overwhelming joy for what she has brought into my life. Together we will celebrate the way we love most, driving the winding country roads, with our windows rolled down, the breeze blowing through our hair, smiling from ear to ear and the music cranked up as we sing out our favorite tunes. Thank you, Gabrielle, for helping us all to go a little farther!