Dented Cans and Rare Coins – How Do We Value the Life of Special People?

Angela Chininin Buele

When I was about five years old, my babysitter’s cat had kittens.  One of them had a cleft palate, a hooked tail, two different colored eyes, and a puny frame.  All of the other kittens were “normal.”  When I was asked which one I wanted, I knew right away that I wanted the prettiest one–the one that had the longest, softest, purest white fur.  My babysitter and my mom might have questioned my choice, but I was resolved.  In the end, I took my beautiful white kitten–cleft palate, hooked tail, different colored eyes and all– home with me.  My Maddie was my treasured pet all the way up until Homecoming week of my senior year of high school.  She outlived everyone’s expectations, and she was always a great blessing to me.

I also found throughout my childhood that I was drawn to encourage and stand by the disabled and the downtrodden, appreciating their tenderness and desiring to see their bright smiles.  Some of my most vivid memories are grown from this passion-the time I spent with my mentally impaired uncle, the urge to defend the elementary school classmate who frustrated the teacher (and the ache of loss when he killed himself later that year), and the young boy with Down’s Syndrome I saw being dragged along by his angry brother through a downpour at Walt Disney World.  All of these are forever etched in my mind and on my heart as precious souls, not mistakes of God, products of Chance, genetic abnormalities, or dented cans.

My family was most likely not surprised at all when, as a 10-year-old, I announced I would become a teacher.  Shortly thereafter I decided I should be a special education teacher.  It was through my training and my career that I found that, while I still knew each special person was made by the loving hand of our Creator God, I had become quite impatient and even unkind to one of my most needy students in my class as a first year teacher.  I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with her years later and ask her forgiveness for not serving her more generously when I was first given the opportunity to be her teacher.  Even now I am just beginning to enter the deep waters of learning how to give steadfast love to those who have special needs.  Yet it is clear to me that the reason this journey is difficult is because I have been selfish and self-centered.  I have not sought to fully rejoice in the unique gift that people of all physical and intellectual capacities are to this world.

Some of the happiest people I have met are these precious, rare coins.  I don’t find them blaming God for making them different.  Nor do I see them wishing they had never been born because they do not see their lives as unworthy of living.

So beware, my friends, if you find yourselves believing that you are being heroic to say or think that the abortion of a disabled child is compassionate since their lives would be so different compared to your own circumstances.  I assure you that none of the physically or mentally disabled children or adults I have worked with over the years would agree with this.

Key Question: Can joy be found in the middle of a challenge?

Unshakable Truth:  “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5 ESV).

The Real Choice: Will you see disabled people as dented cans to be thrown away or as rare coins to protect, care for, and appreciate?

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