Respecting humanity?s uniqueness as a gift

Don?t underestimate a kid with a message ? that?s what Georgian mother, Meagan Nash, and her son, recently taught the world this month with the pair?s public reality check of a major national children?s modeling agency based in Atlanta, Ga.

Just in case you aren?t up to speed with their story, let me fill you in. As of about three weeks ago, Meagan Asher has made national headlines after she took to social media to protest her son Asher?s apparent discrimination from the modeling world. A 15-month-old boy, Asher Nash, was born with Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects roughly 6,000 children born in the U.S. each year. After submitting a series of professionally taken headshots of her son for a national advertising campaign for the Atlanta modeling agency, Nash was disheartened by the agency?s response to her son?s application.

According to emails exchanged between Nash and the owner of the Atlanta-based company, after a follow-up email in which Nash asked about the status of her son?s casting, the agency owner told her they had not submitted Asher? application and photos for hiring because the company ?didn?t specify special needs? as something they wanted to promote in their advertising campaign. According to his mother, Asher met all of the agency?s criteria for age, eye color, hair color and size.

?My first thought was how in the world does she (the owner of the modeling agency) know they don?t want a child with a disability if they haven?t even seen his pictures?? Asher?s mother said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post. ?A lot needs to change in the advertisement world and people need to realize that babies, children and adults with disabilities deserve to be in advertisements just as much as a typical person does.?

After taking to ?Changing the Face of Beauty?s? Facebook page with her son?s headshots and a post detailing her heartache with what she felt was the world?s misunderstanding of disabled individuals, her post quickly went viral and has already received 77,000 Facebook likes and has been shared over 124,000 times on Facebook.

Over the next few weeks, the modeling agency that had originally rejected Asher?s application took notice and change began.

Meagan Nash and the agency?s executives eventually agreed on why it was wrong not to submit Asher?s application in a respectful email exchange and cleared up confusion that was plaguing both parties involved. As a result, the company has assured Nash that Asher?s headshots would be submitted for future castings, putting him in equal running with other children?s modeling applications.

Since the company submitted Asher?s application, his photos have already been seen by mega children?s merchandise brand, OshKosh B?gosh, who has expressed interest in Asher after seeing his application and headshots for an upcoming clothing ad campaign.

In an interview with ABC?s Good Morning America, Meagan Nash says her goal with Asher?s modeling is to ?show special needs children that they are valued, and that they are not just an advertising trend, but that they are wanted and here to stay.? Nash went on to state that whether or not Asher is cast by other companies is not up to her, but that she simply wants him to be included in the running like any other child who fit the criteria.

Now, when I first read what Asher?s mother had done, I couldn?t help but be reminded of my own mother. Being born with a birth defect myself, I have dealt with similar situations like Asher, and I can recall several instances when my mother and father have both gone to bat for me before I was old enough and socially mature enough to hold my own. In all instances, my parents did their job of advocating for their young daughter with dignity and respect towards the other party involved.

What?s interesting about this whole story to me, especially given the recent social climate our world finds itself in, is how Meagan Nash handled the situation in the interviews that I have seen. Instead of flying off the handle and making all modeling agencies out to be egotistical monsters, Nash simply stated her feelings and her hopes that with some open and honest conversation, positive change would begin.

You see, the truth is (and I am speaking with some experience here), sometimes people can be very ignorant of what they don?t understand and misjudge others because of it. Does it feel good to be on the receiving end of that misjudgment? No, I can honestly say it does not. Does it also mean that once misguided judgements are made, the hope of reconciliation and forgiveness is lost for good? Certainly not. Asher?s story is proof of that.

But, the only way that happens is if both parties involved are willing to look at a situation with honesty, accept any error they may have made, and agree to move on to a reasonable and appropriate solution.

We all are unique and that?s okay. It?s how God created us, and it?s important to realize that we all have something beautiful and different to offer this world. Perhaps for Asher, his offering is a bright smile and a different perspective on the world than most kids his age have.

In any case, it is clear that this little 15-month-old cutie is teaching adults twice his age the power of respect and forgiveness. Now that, my friends, is certainly a beautiful thing.