By Jaime Nava –
So my wife was at a Trader Joe’s market. Zoey, our daughter, was with her. As she describes it, some guy with mad scientist hair approached her. In a non-aggressive or confrontational way he tells my wife, “You know, your daughter’s condition is correctable”. Zoey, my little three year old, has Down syndrome. She always has. She always will.
Maybe I should take a little time to explain Down syndrome (also called trisomy 21). This syndrome has a spectrum of people with some who have certain cells having extra chromosomes to others with all cells having extra chromosomes. The odds of a child with Down syndrome are about 1/1000. Most children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 but that tends to be because women don’t have as many kids over that age too. They are often born with heart defects as well. Zoey has extra chromosomes in all cells and was born with heart defects. People with Down syndrome learn to walk later, talk later, potty train later, pretty much do everything later. Should we compare people with Down syndrome to those who do not, it would seem that they have poor quality of life because they can’t always do what most people can do. There’s another way to look at it. They don’t live at most people’s pace.
So this fellow sees my daughter and probably read an article or saw something on T.V. and thought that my Zoey needed some fixing. After all, he was only trying to help. You know, people with disabilities are a drain on parents. They require all their attention. People with disabilities are a syphon on society. They use all that valuable tax money. It would be much better for our freedom and for our bottom line if we just rounded them up and fixed them, if we could. If we couldn’t, well, maybe we just abort. 90% of all people with Down syndrome are aborted (i.e. killed) in the womb. Imagine a school with only 10% of the kids there. Imagine your church with 10% of the people. Why are they gone? Because they were a burden on me and society. That is how our culture, especially many doctors, view people with Down syndrome. The great “straw-man knight”, Richard Dawkins, once tweeted to a woman with a Down syndrome person in her womb, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” So there we have it. Liberty over life. Morality means no burden. Let us make our fellow man in our image.
What can be done with all of this? Shall we spout righteous brimstone? Before I get there, I find some interesting things in media regarding people with Down Syndrome. Have you heard of the runway model with Down syndrome? I’ve also seen videos of a girl singing and a young man who is a weight lifter, each with the same syndrome. I’m torn when I see these things. On the one hand I see a person who is elated with their achievements. What we take for granted is still left for trailblazing. We celebrate their hard work and dedication. On the other hand, I can’t help but think that there’s a hint of “that’s normal so that’s better”. Do we find people more acceptable if they’re more like us? Does the gap between them and us grow smaller when they do what we do? Why do we think there’s a gap at all, us and them? I don’t want to downplay the hard work of those with major obstacles. I do want to point out that one reaction we have to disabilities is to try to make them more like us. This brings us back to the mad scientist at Trader Joe’s.
My first reaction is to give him a mitt in the gob, a molly wop if you will. That’s my gut reaction. The other reaction is to build myself a stilted horse with “pity” on the side so I can look down on the poor fellow and feel sorry for his lack of empathy. The reality is Zoey feels the effects of Adam and Eve’s rebellion far more than we. She carries the weight of the curse with such grace and humble stride that I am ashamed at myself. She doesn’t shake her little fist at God or at her parents. In fact, I dare you to find someone more loving, caring, peaceable, generous, and so much more than my Zoey. What I see in my daughter is God’s power made perfect in weakness. Grace is made sufficient for Zoey. She will have to rely on Christ for all her needs of body and soul. She will have to remain in someone’s nearby care all her days. She is not a burden on society, she is a burden on Christ and on His mercy. It is the exact burden God Himself desires for us all.
Zoey knows what it is to be poor in spirit. Can we say the same? Do we look to make other men into our image or do we cherish them for who they are, the burden of God? The great equalizer of the grave comes for us all. Where is our strength then? We can only find it, as Zoey does, in Christ alone.