A black and white photograph of Mark Roland, an adolescent with Down syndrome.

Mark Roland, one of the 6,000 babies born each year with Down syndrome, was a human beacon of unconditional love. Today, the National Down Syndrome Society provides vital resources for those affected by Down syndrome.

Born on March 27, 1970 Mark Roland, a down syndrome child, came into this troubled planet and in the process of his journey of 33 years, before he died of respiratory arrest in 2003, Mark touched countless people with his innocent, joyful and open heart including mine. Even though I had met him only once as a young child, I never forgot his deep knowing and joyful presence for he was indeed an innocent pure new soul whose only purpose was to unconditionally love.

One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common genetic condition in America. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. Regardless of the type of Down syndrome a person may have, all have an extra, critical portion of chromosome 21 present in all or some of their cells. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) are becoming increasingly integrated into society and community organizations, such as school, health care systems, work forces, and social and recreational activities. Most people with Down syndrome have cognitive delays that are mild to moderate but they also have gentle souls and a great capacity to give and receive love — and Mark Roland was the perfect example of that gift.

Another inspiring example of raising a child with Down syndrome is the story of London, a young girl:

“The best part of every day with London is seeing her smile. She puts her whole being into every smile. It goes something like this:she pushes her fists down and her shoulders squinch up, her eyes close into their little rainbows and each little tooth shines. Most of the time, it is a silent smile, without a laugh. She could melt any one’s heart with that smile. Her happiness is so innocent and true. Yes, I know she is only two, of course she is innocent — but look at anyone with DS and they have that same smile.”

A smiling baby girl named London, who has Down syndrome.

"She puts her whole being into every smile," says London's mother, Shauna. Those with disabilities such as Down syndrome have much to teach the rest of us about compassion, acceptance, and humanity.

It’s a deep, knowing, loving smile and it’s exactly what I experienced with Mark as a child and it’s what his immediate family deeply remembers — especially his sister and my beloved niece Vanessa White:

“Mark changed my life and my path…he opened my heart and mind to the beauty of all people…he was wise and compassionate with a grateful and remarkably forgiving heart…he was and is love, unconditional in its highest most purest form…I miss him but am so grateful for having had the gift to experience his being…he was a Special Olympic swimmer..he loved to ski in New Hampshire..he had a great sense of humor and would see the unnoticed nuances in people that was heartwarming…my mother was his greatest supporter and advocate. Mark was a blessing, a truly unique loving being — at his wake there were lines of people out the door, therapists social workers friends family etc. He touched whomever he interacted with, with his honesty, open heart ,humor and love. He had incredible insight into himself and had a deep love and compassion towards my father who also deeply loved Mark.”

In other words, Mark was one of many uncluttered DS souls, new souls who can clearly see through the heart — here to fully experience human existence. They are evidence of a state of consciousness we will all eventually surrender to, living reminders of a Unified Field of love and soul consciousness that exists not only beyond time and space but also beneath our deepest fears.

In that regard, Mark appeared to his mother after his passing letting her know that he was fine — much like my own mother appeared to me after she died lovingly saying “Allen, I know, Allen I Know.”

How fitting that Mark’s Uncle Allen, who had met him only once, would write a loving birthday tribute to this rare human being who touched so many hearts including mine on his brief journey to this planet — for I have never forgotten his innocent pure soul and loving heartfelt smile.

Heart-centered spiritual consultant and advisor Allen L. Roland can be contacted atallen@allenroland.com. Allen is also a lecturer and writer who shares a weekly political and social commentary on his blog and website allenroland.com. He is also a featured columnist on Veterans Today and guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK.

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