Last week, during one of my visits with Ms Betty*, she was telling me about her best friend from childhood. The focus of the conversation ended up being not on the friend's life or their friendship, but on the woman's oldest son. He wasn't like every other boy on the block. He had cerebral palsy, much like this beautiful young lady...
As I listened to his story, I was inspired. He was without the use of the majority of his body. Not many people could understand his speech if they were not accustomed to him. He was, by our standards, broken. But he would not let that deter him. In fact, when he finished high school, he decided that he wanted to go to college at LSU. It took a year for him to meet the special requirements they gave him for admission. His were requirements that we wouldn't even think of as applicable to a college admissions process, such as using the bathroom and bathing without help, brushing his own teeth, making it to class on his own.
But he did it. And he graduated. When he took his (st)roll across the stage for his diploma, he received a well-deserved standing ovation. But that wasn't enough for him. He became a successful business man, he wrote a book that somehow, by the way, was never published...I would like to know how an inspirational book written by this man never made it to a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. But I digress. Not only was he successful independently, but he was successful in love. He met a beautiful woman, fell in love, got married, and ended up outliving his wife. The only thing this many couldn't accomplish by shear power of his will was to have children...something Ms Betty believes he still regrets.
The interesting thing about the turn our conversation took this day was one of the news headlines of the day. It seems there was a man who got so angry about his daughter (who has cerebral palsy) being made fun of incessantly on her bus and in school, that he took matters into his own hands. What loving father wouldn't?
You can read the article and think about all that on your own, but the conclusion Ms. Betty drew for me in our time together that day is that (this is a paraphrase) everyone has gifts that should be realized. God did not create everyone to be the same. He made us different for a reason. Even diseased and handicapped (those effected by the natural messiness of our world) have gifts and abilities that God will use. God is bigger than their disability and his power to overcome can be seen in the determination of this man who made it across that LSU stage for his diploma...and in the ability of a 13 year old girl to go back to school, day after day, as she is mocked for something she has no power to control.
Life is valuable. All life. And we need to make sure we teach our children, our coworkers, our employees, our family and our friends to value each person who crosses our paths. We should teach it by example and by exposure. We should love as best we know how...always.
*name changed to protect privacy
For more information on Cerebral Palsy, please visit www.UCP.org