It wasn’t a sight you would normally see at the conservative Christ Church Cathedral on any given day and especially during Sunday service to boot, but on Sunday past, the congregation took a step on the wild side, literally, donning the wackiest socks they could find in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day. It was their way of coming together to celebrate the uniqueness of people born with the disease.
Parish members were encouraged to wear their mismatched and wackiest socks and make a donation of $5; and even if a person opted out of wearing the socks, they were encouraged to donate.
Through the initiative, members were reminded not to take for granted the simple things in life, because for some people that is a way of life. The expression of wearing mismatched socks displays this because for people born with Down Syndrome it is the norm.
The church raised approximately $1,000 over three services, which was donated to the Bahamas Down Syndrome Association on World Down Syndrome Day which is recognized annually on March 21.
“It felt good making the donation to the association because it actually took us back to the mission of reaching others and helping to break the stigma and discrimination that comes along with physical disabilities,” said Reverend Chitan Thompson, assistant curate at Christ Church Cathedral.
The initiative was brought to the church’s clergy by Tiffany Hall-Sweeting, diocesan youth director, and Thompson said they ran with it.
While she knew parish members would donate, she said she knew they were taking their members out of their comfort zone for Sunday service and was really surprised that many of them actually wore their wacky and mismatched socks to church.
“We started promoting three weeks ahead of time, we emailed it to our members and we had pamphlets on Sundays with information about Down Syndrome, as well as the association and Ty’s Place restaurant. Some persons were already aware, and some were a bit hesitant at first, but as we promoted it, they got on board,” said Thompson.
While many parishioners had to go shopping in search of the perfect socks to wear, for Thompson, it was just the opening of a drawer at home and deciding what she wanted to wear. She already had a collection and opted to go mixed match – one green Minions sock and one pink one with unicorns. And as far as she’s concerned, she went to the extreme, so no on outdid her. But she does give a nod of credit to the parishioners that went the sweet way – one donned Skittles socks, and the other rocked Starburst candy socks.
While the women’s socks definitely popped because they wore dresses, Thompson said she was more than happy to see men pulling up their pant leg to show off their footwear.
The fun day at church, she said, sparked a lot of attention and conversation afterwards with people taking pictures and discussing where they got their socks.
The awareness day took place during the Lenten season and, in terms of the season, Thompson said it showed them holding to the pillars of praying, fasting and giving. She said the wacky sock day highlighted praying for others with challenges beyond their control, and them having the opportunity to give as a parish to an organization in need.
“It was definitely an opportunity to break out of our boxes, wear colorful socks, and have some fun together.”
Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms during pregnancy and how the baby’s body functions as it grows in the womb and after birth. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is “trisomy”. Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.
Some common physical features of Down syndrome include a flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose; almond-shaped eyes that slant up; a short neck; small ears; a tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth; tiny white spots on the iris (colored part) of the eye; small hands and feet; a single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease); small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb; poor muscle tone or loose joints; and shorter in height as children and adults.
While no one at Christ Church Cathedral has Down syndrome that Thompson knows off, she said the day was such a success that it has spun off into the parish members gearing up to recognize Purple Day, in support of epilepsy on Friday, March 26, and a parish member who is epileptic.
“We’re encouraging folks to wear purple on Friday, with the main purpose to bring awareness to the various challenges people face,” said Thompson.
Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On the day, annually, people worldwide are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness.
With no local organization to make a donation to, Thompson said they’re encouraging parish members to don their purple, take a picture and send it in to the church, and through that effort, spread the word on epilepsy, and knowledge on how to deal with a person they may encounter with epilepsy.