A Person’s Worth…

What value does a person have?  And how do you place a value on him?  Is value based on job, money, influence, ability, intelligence, age?  Is a person only worth something if she meets a certain government criteria?

As your own kids grow your world changes. You don’t always hear about the latest trends in child care, diapers, vaccinations or even schools.  But I didn’t realize how much things had changed until recently.

In 2008 Sarah Palin was turned into a household name. She also brought with her a young son with Down’s Syndrome.  When I first saw him, like many, I just thought how happy he looks.  I really didn’t think much about it. I watched as the Palins were met across the country by families with special needs kids.  Had they come to the valley we might have joined them.  An advocate, a voice for the handicapped, in the White House would surely be good. 

Still, I didn’t think much about it.  Oh, I did hear negative comments from some, but there are crude and rude people everywhere so no real surprise.  Until I realized how few children with Down’s there are today.  Comments by reporters caused me to do my own research.  I was astonished to read that over 90% of fetuses with Down’s Syndrome are aborted in the UK.  WOW!  UK Telegraph (I share the website so you don’t think I’m exaggerating.)  Shockingly, the US statistics are almost as high. It all became clear.  I hadn’t seen a young child with Down’s in some time.  In fact, the youngest ones I know, are now in their early 20’s.

Apparently, we’ve deemed these children expendable, with no value.  Parent’s who discover their child might be less than perfect are given the option simply have a procedure and try again. I was surprised to learn this.  Maybe you aren’t.  It got me to thinking about abortions. Yes, I know they are legal in all states and I’m not here to argue this issue.  I just want to give you pause to think about society today.  If you are like me wondering whether there is a difference between an abortion and infanticide you may appreciate this article: No Jail Time For Mother Who Commits Infanticide.  On the flip side, should parents be forced to watch their child with Tay Sachs disease die a slow progressive death?  I’m not in their shoes so I can’t answer…still for some, four years loving and knowing a child  is worth it though they lose him.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? 

At what point is a special needs child not worth life?  Because she has Down’s does that mean she can’t be loved and loving?  Can another with special needs still have a positive impact on those around?  Are we attempting to engineer perfect children who will grow into perfect adults?  If so, I hate to be the one to tell you, but I’ve seen a whole bunch of “perfect children” who grow into rapscallions (or worse) and end up a sponge on their parents and society.

None of us can see the future.  Even if we could, should we choose to abort a child who has a “non-genetic” injury?  And to what benefit?  I look at Matthew.  He was tested for all kinds of “illnesses”.  No genetic problems.  Yet, to many, he’s not a perfect child.  Today there isn’t a genetic test for autism or cerebral palsy. In addition, babies can have pre-birth or birth injuries.  Babies can be born premature.  Things happen. Sometimes they are terrible.  I know.  We’ve been there.  But does that mean that this child with an injury cannot be a valuable part of society?  What if the injury happens later?  What if it’s years later?

The other day we ran into a young woman who used to spend time at a friend’s after school.  When she was in school she always had the teen pop star magazines which she loved to share with Matthew.  Like many kids, she wasn’t so keen on school work.  Today she is very grown up and was out with friends for dinner.  Her life is good.  She is beautiful and friendly.  A lot of people could take lessons from her.  I can’t imagine that someone might think she was less than worthy of life because she has Down’s Syndrome.

This weekend we took part in a 9/11 anniversary ceremony.  The keynote speaker was not the former vice president (though he spoke), nor was it a very popular sheriff (who also spoke).  No, it was an American hero who rejoined the military following 9/11 because he wanted to be a bomb demolition expert.  He loved his job but when one of the bomb’s exploded as he was working to save his fellow soldiers he paid a big price.  Lost his vision, lost his arm.  Months and months of rehabilitation.  An amazing man, he remained positive and fearless.  I saw pictures of him talking to other wounded warriors.  He showed them courage and gave them home.  He may no longer be perfect…but his life still has a huge value.

Matthew’s Impression of France…

The above pictures were taken by Matthew.  There is no doubt that he sees life differently from many of us. He doesn’t talk but he is known by many.  The other day we were walking up the road in Strawberry with Bob’s family.  A couple women drove past in their Ranger and then shouted out, “Matthew!”  It was a friend of Matthew’s grandma.  And of course, she was excited to look at his worn TV Guide.  When we go to church I always hear someone calling out, “Hey, Matt! Let me see what you have!”  The old ladies love to hug him and they know he loves it.  At the grocery store one of the checker’s knows his name and invites Matthew to pack up the groceries.  Through Matthew we are given a connection to others who we might otherwise never meet.  We can only imagine the impact he has on others.  Oh, he’s not perfect but his life has huge value.

So I don’t really have any answers.  I’m not here to say it’s easy, if your child has special needs…but it’s also not easy if your child has emotional problems, gets in with the wrong crowd, or just lives to challenge you daily.  Still, if you find yourself or someone you know in a difficult position know that many of us do believe all life has worth.  And give me a call…


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Forty years is a long time together.  Especially when one is an independent Vermonter and the other a dreaming adventurer.  Maybe those uniquely diverse characteristics served as glue to bind.  Or maybe it was that they did everything “Juntos,” as John would say, “Together.”  And together they met the challenges: in good times and bad times; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health…
For many years they chose to live the American Dream…have your own business and be your own boss.  Jane never planned on becoming a commercial fisherman but when it became John’s dream she climbed on-board.  (A brave feat considering deep water terrified her.)  Together they learned the ins and outs of trolling for salmon in Southeast Alaska.  Life aboard a fishing boat brings back many memories: from teaching girls how to gut fish and raising a child on the boat to taking advantage of a foggy day to explore the beach and see bears in the distance… 
It’s no surprise, since they met as volunteers, that they would continue serving together in their communities over the years.  Together they explored most of the back roads and discovered many secrets of the state.  After moving to Arizona they became involved in school and scouting activities and then found great reward working with the Search and Rescue groups.  They remember each search and those who worked alongside.  Mention a big wig with the sheriff’s office in Coconino, Gila or Maricopa County and chances are they met him.   
No grass ever grew under their feet so when they sold the boat choosing to live in Arizona full time they also decided to build their own cabin in the woods.  Friends and family were inspired with this adventure often gathering on weekends to provide additional muscle with this project.  The cabin stands today with its handmade stone fireplace and large deck that can seat the family as a testament of their talents and effort.  Everything done, every challenge met with a Together We Can attitude. 
The children of these two learned that life is an adventure so one would expect to hear they are off pursuing their own adventures across the country.  Grandchildren are examples of the continued family growth.  Our own family has been fortunate to remain close and it’s been a blessing.  Both kids have benefited from being around another generation of family and spending time together.  Matthew especially, loves spending time with Grandma and Grandpa. That he carries everywhere an 11×14 picture of Grandpa is a story for another day.
There have been plenty of challenges to be sure but each one was met standing side by side. Together they would get through it…and they did. 
Today, both are retired but still not content to sit still.  They spend winters searching for the elusive gold nuggets.  Rather John works tirelessly sifting through creek beds, cracks and crevices in the desert while Jane pursues her photojournalist dream.  And you should know one of her first published articles was about her prospector husband.  They amaze us as they continue this journey together. Juntos. 
Happy Anniversary! We love you!