Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors
The Infinite Value of People with Disabilities
May 27, 2018
At a recent U.N. gathering, the Holy See brought together a group of panelists to highlight
the value of disabled persons in our society. A video was presented that told of a woman who was
pregnant and had just discovered her child would be born with Down Syndrome. She emailed an
organization for the disabled, saying, “I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?” Their response
was to compile video clips of people with Down Syndrome answering her question.
From different places around the world and in different languages, they took turns delivering
pieces of the message written in subtitles beneath their beautiful, smiling faces: “Dear future mom, don’t
be afraid. Your child will be able to do many things. He’ll be able to hug you. He’ll be able to run towards you.
He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.” They explained all the things a child with Down Syndrome would be able to do, including work, travel, and independent living, adding, “Sometimes it will be difficult. Very difficult...But isn’t it like that for all mothers?”
Tears flowed at the U.N. as mothers joined their children on screen, one at a time in each different location, mother and child hugging each other as the final words of the message were delivered: “Dear future mom, your child can be happy. Just like I am. And you’ll be happy too. Right, mom?” Each in turn, they looked to their mothers, whose smiles and warmth answered the question, “Right, mom?”
This short video message so beautifully captures the impact people with disabilities have on the world around them. The mothers in that video looked happy because of the bonds they had created with their children. It is important to remember that those bonds of love within a family or community are often strengthened through unique challenges faced together. The entire group may cultivate teamwork, learn empathy, and discover that everyone has amazing talents, if only given the circumstances to thrive.
On a day devoted to persons with disabilities during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016, Pope Francis said, “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ – not to mention fake – people live there, but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase…. Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face – at times painfully – frailty and illness, both our own and those of others.”
Sadly, in some parts of the world, disability-based abortion threatens to eliminate certain populations of the disabled, which the Holy See called, “the greatest hate-crime of this generation.” Francis correctly highlights that it is an illusion to think we can eradicate the obstacles of life. All we are doing by weeding out people with disabilities is creating a society that is less compassionate and less oriented towards problem solving.
But this is not the way that Christ has taught us to live. We are called to care for one another and in so doing we discover the joy of becoming more like Christ. This is why the mothers and their children featured in the U.N. video radiated such joy. They had discovered Christ in their relation to one another. What greater gift could a person bring into your life? So have the courage to embrace those with disabilities in your family and community, and you will awaken Christ within each other and help to build a compassionate society that values all people as children of God.
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