My wife Rosemarie had just given birth to our son Sam, and although he appeared perfectly healthy, something, nevertheless, didn’t seem right. There was an awkward silence in the room, no words of congratulation or comments about how cute he was – even though he was cute. Five minutes later the diagnosis was given: Sam has Down Syndrome. “Are you going to keep him?” a nurse asked. Later that evening someone else came by to “console” us. “It’s every mother’s worst nightmare,” she said.
Welcome to the world, Sam.
In America today, perfection is highly valued. We dump loads of chemicals on our lawns to try and get rid of every weed, every dandelion. Models and supermodels are tall, impossibly fit, their clothes stylish and wrinkle-free. Images like this tend to change our perceptions, our ideals, until finally they leave us looking around at the peeling paint on our own houses, and our less than fit bodies, and it leaves us wanting.
Perfection, I would submit, is overrated. And besides, I like dandelions.
In the painting Sam assumes the role of presenter, host, even tutor, of this most revealing examination of the civilization man has made for himself. Sam is not society’s accepted definition of perfection. In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, he really does have an important message for everyone to hear.