Thursday, August 11, 2011

Choosing to See

I caught a bit of Chuck Colson on the radio today talking about his grandson, Max, who is autistic. I actually didn't know that until I looked it up because I literally caught just the tail end of his segment of Breakpoint. I heard the part where he said that his grandson wouldn't cure the common cold or anything amazing like that, but he will, if you take the time, show you love and grace and maybe teach you a little humility. His final point was that people should quit playing God. I think the reference there was to abortion.

I wholeheartedly agree. Lots of children with disabilities are aborted for "quality of life" issues. Often it's less clear who's quality of life is under consideration, but this post is not a rant about abortion.

I have heard many, many parents of profoundly disabled children talk about the blessings their children are. My mom has a cousin who was born with Down's Syndrome at a time when the only real option was institutionalization. Her parents opted to keep her at home and help her reach her fullest potential. And that potential included holding a job and living independently and having a boyfriend. She also lived longer than many with Downs did at that time. She was a great picture for me, as a young mom, of the power of love in the life of a child.

But those kids are still not who I'm talking about. I'm talking about another set of disabled children. Their disability is usually economic. Or maybe it's a color issue. Or maybe geographic. For whatever reason, instead of an extra chromosome, they have a deficit of money. Or they live in a bad neighborhood/city. Or maybe they're a minority. All of those things work together, especially the lack of $$, to produce less. Educational outcomes. Employment opportunities. Social outcomes.

True, there are some mores. More jail/prison time. More drug/alcohol problems. More criminal behavior. Sadly, though, it seems that people choose to see labels instead of potentials. We're not investing in potentials. We are happy to celebrate when someone pulls themselves up by "their own bootstraps," defying the odds to make it. But they are so few and far between.

I spend a lot of time with kids and families who are dealing with emotional problems. Many of those problems are a result of chaotic lifestyles, which are usually birthed by poverty. I have met some really amazing and wonderful kids who have so much stacked against them. I have listened as they told of their dreams and hopes for the future. I have watched as a few of them were able to at least start off in the right direction. But I've watched just as many, if not more, wander with little other support into an abyss they may never see the other side of.

We need to see the value in all our children. We need to see the potential for greatness. We need to see the imago dei that exists even in dirty, cursing, angry faces. We need to see that even after they've been born, many kids will need help that their parents are either not equipped to handle or they just don't exist for whatever reason. We need to quit labeling kids and start loving them.

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