**This article was originally posted at examiner.com. Re-posted with permission, by the author…me 🙂 (Please jump over to examiner to view the comments left by readers.)
Do people with special needs have value?
I really debated whether or not to write this article. I came to the conclusion that the subject matter matters enough – to put myself on the line.
I truly believe that much of the evil of the world continues because so many people do nothing. It’s not that they necessarily endorse the acts of evil but they turn a blind eye…which really leaves but one assumption: they are a part of the problem because they are not a part of the solution.
I refuse to be one of those people.
I’m only one tiny little voice. I understand that. I can’t change the world. I try and I fail. Day after day. But I continue to try and I refuse to give up.
My husband and I moved to a tiny little town just over a year ago. A few months ago I joined the town charity group. We help children and seniors – to pay their winter bills, buy coats for the needy kids, host fundraisers, etc. Tonight was our monthly meeting. We met at the home of one of our members – stunning home with an incredible hand crafted deck, cabinets and more. I arrived and looked around, in awe. I don’t have anything like this and I’m absolutely okay with that. I know what I have and it means the world to me: a soul mate for a husband and three fantastic mini humans. This thought ran through my mind…”My family means everything to me.” So much more than any beautiful home or any material thing. I am always happy for others when they have beautiful things – I feel glad for them. I smiled to myself and sat down for the meeting – with a heart full of gratitude for the people in my life that I am blessed to call FAMILY.
The woman running the meeting is a spectacular person. If the truth be told, my husband and I would both agree that she is our favorite town member of all. From the moment we moved here and met her we both said, “She is the one. She is the one with the heart – kind, caring, loving, selfless.” She gives of her time and money (what little she has) day after day – to help others who have less than her. She is poor by the world’s standards but if you showed up at her doorstep, hungry, she would feed you. She would clothe you. She would give you shelter and warmth.
At the end of the meeting she said, “Okay. Go around the table and tell us your New Year’s resolutions.”
We began to state our resolutions one by one. When it came to my turn I said, “I don’t like to say what I am going to stop. I like to say what I plan to continue. I plan to continue loving my family, caring about the environment, promoting life and doing what I can to make a difference.” The man sitting across from me said loudly, “I am pro life, too, but if the baby is sick, abort it. If it’s sick – why have it? Just abort and be done with it.”
My heart stopped beating for about 10 seconds, I think.
My son has a special need. He was born with numerous medical complications and I spent a full 2 years in and out of doctor’s offices, addressing his needs. Blood filled my veins quickly and my hands began to shake. I just starred at him for a moment and then looked away, dumbfounded.
The final person shared their resolution and the meeting came to an end. The woman in charge of the meeting (the one I mentioned earlier) began to talk with me and another woman about braces. Mine have finally come off and they were pointing that out, asking if I was happy about it, etc. This woman (the one we love so much) had gotten braces after having cleft palate surgery. She explained that this had left her mouth a little funky and wanted to know if I’d had the same experience with my braces.
I have always wondered what her story was. I knew she had a story. A deep story. A human soul does not become so caring and so loving without a story.
I looked at her with intensity and said, “You have a cleft palate? Did you have surgery?” She answered, “Yes, I did.”
I walked over to her, looked her in the eyes and asked, “How do you feel when someone says what he just said? That a baby with medical issues should be aborted? How does that make you feel?”
Her eyes welled up with tears and so did mine. She replied, “I believe I have value, Shara. I think I add value to this world. You know?”
I put my arms around her and hugged her tightly. “Yes. Of course I do.”
She went on to tell me that she had been born with a cleft palate and that she’d had Scarlet Fever at the age of 5. That’s why she is now deaf. She wears a hearing aid and has trouble talking. Her parents did not get medical help for her as a child. She had to pay for her own surgery at the age of 21.
That’s right. 21.
She was tortured and ridiculed and picked on during her entire childhood.
I told her that I was angry at this man for his ignorant statement. And do you know what she said to me?
She said, “Shara. I have learned that you can’t always judge people because of what they believe. Sometimes they simply don’t know any better. He has never had a child or a grandchild with a special need. He doesn’t get it. If my parents had aborted me…he doesn’t understand that…” Her eyes filled with tears again.
I finished her thought. I whispered, “He doesn’t understand that people like you teach people like him. That a person like you has something to teach others.”
“Exactly.” she answered. “People like him do not realize that people like me add value to the world. That I have something to teach that can benefit others. He doesn’t see it.”
She placed her hand over her heart and continued on: “God doesn’t reveal everything to us all at once. He teaches us in stages. It’s a growing process. We need to have mercy on him.”
I stood there, eyes wet with tears, in complete shock. She had just been told by someone that her life added no value to this world yet she was instructing me to be merciful to him. To the very person who saw her life as meaningless and disposable.
The words of Scripture ran through my head like a force of nature: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
I pictured Jesus walking through town, talking to people and instructing them to have mercy on one another. To love and to forgive. Putting his arms around those who didn’t understand and kindly explaining to them…another way to view things. No name calling. No hate. No disgust. Just mercy.
As I looked into her eyes tonight I saw the face of Jesus and I heard His very words being spoken through her. I could no longer hate this man or despise him on her behalf. I had no right. I decided that my best option was to share this story with others in the hopes of giving another viewpoint on those with special needs.
They do add value to our world. They do matter. It’s my prayer that some day…we will all come to see that. Some way. Some how. It’s also my prayer that we will each be more mindful of how we speak and of the words we use. Words have the power to cut and they have the power to heal.
Let’s be people who use healing words. I choose to be someone who uses healing words and I invite you to join me.