World Down Syndrome Day Calls us to Recognize God’s Gifts in Our Neighbors with Down SyndromeBy Leticia Velasquez, Co-founder, KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome )
Editor’s note. World Down Syndrome Day is observed annually on March 21 to raise public awareness of and about Down syndrome. We will post new stories as we approach March 21. The following ran last March.
Last week, our superintendent was presenting this year’s school budget. She said, “We are lucky that we don’t have too many students with disabilities in our district.”
As the mother of a 13 year old young woman with Down syndrome in that district, I was highly offended. I realized that after all these years, those of us who love people with disabilities still have a lot of teaching to do.
Society may give some lip service to the achievements of those with disabilities, but many measure their worth in purely economic terms and consider them a burden, in an increasing number of cases, a burden which ought to be eliminated.
Last year outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins tweeted to a follower about a hypothetical case of a woman expecting a child with Down syndrome. He recommended that she should “abort the baby and try again.”
In his view, those with Down syndrome don’t contribute to society. So if the powerful people decide a disabled person doesn’t contribute to society in a manner which they find meaningful, people like Dawkins are not shy about recommending they should be aborted or euthanized after birth.
And they are: Babies with Down syndrome are aborted at a shocking rate of 75-93%. In Belgian, parents are permitted to have their disabled children killed. A mother in the UK recently had her disabled daughter killed by court- sanctioned euthanasia.
Contrast this horror with the enlightened view point of Jean Vanier. Vanier began L’Arche (the Ark) whose 142 homes around the world house those with disabilities with typical housemates in order to share their lives.
Vanier was just granted the prestigious Templeton Prize, an honor he shares with Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
Jean Vanier started L’Arche in 1964 when he took two disabled men to live with him in his home. He described his philosophy in this speech in front of the British Parliament:
“A lot is being done for those with disabilities. What can they bring to society? That is the fundamental question. I discovered that people with disabilities are not crying out for position or power, they are crying out for relationship, to meet people.”In a society whose use of technology is replacing personal contact, we must be reminded that we need one another, not for what we do, but for who we are.
My daughter does that for our family. Whenever there’s a quarrel, she takes each participant by the hand and looks at us with love as she places our hands in one another’s. We are reminded that, no matter our differences, we love one another.
This is a priceless gift. Each one of us is grateful that living with Christina has made us more tolerant of diversity in others, more patient with their weakness, and more able to give of ourselves in response. Christina has increased our compassion and our joy.
This World Down Syndrome Day let us be grateful for the presence of those with an extra chromosome, which some have called the love chromosome who help us to increase our ability to love, increasing our humanity.
Source: NRLC News