I caught an article in my Twitter feed called "Not Everyone with Down Syndrome is Suffering" and felt it had a place here on my blog as we educate ourselves and others about people with disabilities. As I mentioned in my Mother's Day post, my sister has disabilities and it has forever changed me in how I understand family dynamics when there is a disabled person in the home. It doesn't mean I don't ever get frustrated or bitter (trust me, in my sinful and broken heart I have failed SO many times on that front), but it does mean that God has given my family an opportunity to be a witness to a world that doesn't understand and can often times be rather cruel about being different.
The full title of the article is News Flash: Not Everyone With Down Syndrome is Suffering. The author discusses how much the media describe children with special needs as "suffering" like some knee-jerk, euphemistic response to their condition.
"Whether with benign or malicious intentions, many people discriminate by looking at people with Down syndrome categorically, before recognizing them as individuals. They assume that all people with Down syndrome look alike, or all people with Down syndrome are sweet, stubborn, angels, or drains on society. I suspect that these biases arise due to the physical characteristics that visually connect individuals with Down syndrome combined with ignorance about the potential for meaningful lives among individuals with intellectual disabilities."This article also rang true with me because of my neighbors. They are retired missionaries and have a son with Down Syndrome who is in his 40's. When we first moved in, they told us he walked to the store where he bagged groceries. Currently, he goes bowling every week and to many other community meetings. He's a huge part of their family and it is evidenced by their love and care for him and their desire for him to have the same opportunities as others.
This could also be said of a couple in our church who have a son with Down Syndrome in his 20's. Their son participates EVERY year in a mission trip where he serves OTHERS through service projects. He supports missions in our church and comes enthusiastically to events and services. "Suffering" (in the sense in which the media use it) would not be in a description of this man's life. He and his family are an encouragement and testament to Christian values that honor all life as sacred.
In no way am I (nor is the author) trying to romanticize disability; I know there are days that are hard, unbearable, and embarrassing. It's good to be honest about that! But I think her point was that it's too easy to see a burden before you see an individual. The best example I can think of is that 80 to 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) abort their babies. However, the video I put at the top of this post should give you hope and make you cry.
The last part of the article could probably sum up these two families' (my neighbor and the author of the article) thoughts:
"Jesus' ministry was marked by an ability to see individuals. In Mark 5, he wasn't content to heal the bleeding woman, but rather insisted upon looking her in the eye and restoring her sense of belonging. He calls her "daughter." Jesus almost always heals through physical touch, through personal connection. Whether addressing Zaccheus or the woman at the well or Nicodemus or the thief on the cross, Jesus refuses to address them according to their social or religious groups (tax collector, adulteress, Pharisee, criminal) but instead insists upon seeing them as a particular person."I pray that we all (that certainly includes me) can cultivate an attitude in our homes that encourages seeing people as God does. That's really being pro-life.