Joe Fairbanks grew up in a family of
nine children. Money was tight, and, like many in similar
circumstances, he wore mostly hand-me-downs.
But Joe was different
children. He was born with Down syndrome, and as a result he had
trouble with language. He often felt frustrated as he struggled
When Joe was 23, his
mother needed to
travel to the Philippines for work, and she took Joe with her.
they left, she bought her son some new clothing for the trip. Oh,
he loved shopping for clothes. He tried on each outfit, asking over and
over again, “How do I look?”
A little while after
their arrival in
the Philippines, heavy rains caused mudslides that covered villages,
schools, and homes. Newspapers carried stories about the
and loss of life. On the front page of one was a stark photograph
man holding a dead child in his arms.
Joe stared at the image
for a long
time, his face etched with profound sorrow. Later, he came to the
of the hotel where they were staying dressed in his old clothes.
side was a large plastic bag.
When his mother opened
the bag, she discovered it contained all of the new items of clothing
that they had bought for the trip.
His mother took him to
the front desk
of the hotel, where Joe's desire to help created some attention.
small crowd gathered as they realized what Joe wanted to do.
“Me give my clothes,” he
Nearly every eye swelled
with tears. The hotel clerks took the clothing and promised to
get it to those in need.
In that moment, Joe spoke
more perfect and eloquent than any other in the world. He spoke a
language that is native to every race and culture. It binds
overcomes barriers, and transforms lives. The language Joe spoke best
of all was the language of love.