How Empathy Could Save Lives: The Ethan Saylor Tragedy, Penny, and a Better Future

I was walking home with my daughter Penny and her friend yesterday. We had invited the friend over for a last minute play date. I overheard the friend say to Penny, “You keep asking the same question.” Penny has Down syndrome, and sometimes it is hard for her to think of a new way to express what she is thinking or feeling. It’s as if her brain gets stuck on the same path, even when she has walked that path to its end. Often, she just asks a question over and over again. Yesterday the question was, “Do you want to play on our new playset?”

Penny’s friend turned to me, “Penny asks the same question a lot at school too. I sometimes wonder if she just forgets.”

I smiled, grateful for the honesty of 7-year olds. “Well, sometimes Penny asks the same question because she can’t think of something else to say.” I caught Penny’s eye and said, “You could make a statement too.”

Penny took her friend by the hand. “I’m so happy you want to play with me.”

Continue reading Reflecting on the Ethan Saylor Tragedy at

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About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).