Two sisters are in the Seminary class I teach. Both girls are attentive, eager to participate, and kind friends. One of them, Charity, has Down syndrome. The rest of the class, without a word of instruction, has fully embraced Charity. There’s no fear, just acceptance, and sincere cheering her on when we play a game.

In January of this year their family adopted another little baby with Down syndrome. They had to wait until September for their court appearance to make it official, then scheduled a temple sealing with nine-month-old Nora.

I had already told the class that in every family I’ve ever met who has a child with special needs, the siblings are spectacular. They seem to be more spiritually and emotionally mature, patient, and compassionate than other kids. Whether God chooses these amazing brothers and sisters for His special children, or whether the special children make their family that way, it’s always the case in my experience.

I was honored to be invited to the sealing. In the waiting area I loved watching all the kids try to maneuver their way into holding Nora. She had been in the family for nine months, but the excitement of holding her was as if it were Day One.

In the sealing room, the family gathered at the altar, Nora craning her neck around to see each of them. She was quiet and well-behaved, nothing unusual was happening.

Until the sealing was pronounced. Suddenly this baby began clapping and laughing joyously. It was truly as if she understood what had just been spoken. Over and over she clapped. I felt I was seeing her true inner spirit, completely aware of what was going on. It was breathtaking.

Then, during the October General Conference, Nora was quietly sitting in her play saucer when President Nelson announced four temples to surround Mexico City—temples in Cuernavaca, Pachuca, Toluca, and Tula. Nora began jumping and squealing with excitement, clapping again with all her might. This is the area of Mexico she is from, where her ancestors were born.

What a thrill for the family to see her truly seeming to understand. So many of her relatives could now be more exposed to what temples are all about, and receive blessings, too. Wow.

If you speak with families who have a child with Down syndrome, you’ll hear many stories like this. These children seem more in tune with God at times, far ahead of the rest of us. I’ve noticed in Seminary class how deep Charity’s testimony is. Along with the other students, she writes in her journal and showed me her latest page. It expressed genuine closeness with Christ, gratitude for what He did for us, and for how much He loves us. It was perfect.

President Russell M. Nelson has said, “Stellar spirits are often found in imperfect bodies,” and the truth of this is manifested over and over.

I’m so grateful we no longer isolate children with disabilities, but include them with their peers. Charity is the first to laugh when my husband pops in wearing a crazy costume I’ve created for him. He’s a great sport, showing up recently as a sheep, a fortune cookie, a scroll, a lion, and a giant cell phone with one app that says, “Ridiculous Costume Ideas.”

The other students are tender and caring with Charity, helping her fully participate. She reads scriptures aloud, answers questions, and shares artwork. It has been no inconvenience whatsoever to have Charity in the class.  One activity was a bit more challenging, so I asked her to be the timer who rings the bell. She instantly loved this very important assignment.

So often we applaud those who are kind to the disabled, but what’s really awesome is how inclusion actually works in real life.  Both sides learn. Both benefit. Both treat each other as friends, not focusing on the differences. And yet, the differences matter so much– they instill respect, patience, and generosity. The differences are nurtured and appreciated. It’s impressive and inspiring to watch both individuals. Inclusion is honestly awesome when you see it in action, challenging old ways of thinking and inspiring creativity, both people open to learning from the other.

Sometimes I look into Charity’s eyes and wish I could see all that she sees. What a blessing it is to watch how much impact she has on others. She is innocent, honest, faithful, and pure. Charity doesn’t let her disability define her. She centers us, and reminds us that we are far more alike than different. And without saying a word she reminds us of the importance of every individual.

When I think of the courage it takes to be different, to mix in, (to get up early and attend Seminary!), to participate in class—I just stand in awe of Charity. Instead of seeing her with sympathy, I want to celebrate her. We should all have her spirituality and her insight. I feel so blessed that she landed in my class.

I saw a quote online, by Ashley Asti. It says, “When children are brought into the world with an extra chromosome—with Down syndrome, that is—the first words parents often hear are, ‘I’m sorry,’ as if Down syndrome itself is something to be down about. It’s not. I want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ I want to say, ‘What a beautiful gift you’ve brought into the world, one more being here for a reason, here with purpose.’ I want to say, ‘Oh, mama,’ or ‘Oh, dad—this new little being is going to lift you up.”

The Biery family definitely knows this. They’ve found the secret to joy, and they honestly glow with it. What a glorious blessing to know a family like this.

Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website.