I Was There To Serve Them

I Was There To Serve Them

PicMonkey Collage

 

When Abby left Planned Parenthood, it wasn’t just her heart that God needed to work on. After eight years of supporting Abby in the abortion industry, it is safe to say I had bought into some of her arguments. There were plenty of situations and stories that Abby came home with that I could sympathize with. While Abby was struggling with her stance on abortion, I was going to work wondering if I would ever go back to being 100% pro-life.

When I worked as a Special Education teacher, there was a lot of talk about how some of the students would have been better off never being born. Most of the time it was never about feeling sorry for the person so much as feeling sorry for ourselves that we had to deal with them. I have to admit that I was pretty torn on the issue. On one hand, why would we want to force a human to live a less than normal life? Why should they have to suffer an entire lifetime of being severely disabled? Why should I have to deal with it? Why should tax payers have to pay for their needs? On the other hand, all of these kids were so happy, and most of their parents were happy to have them. Don’t get me wrong. I loved every one of my students, but sometimes it was hard to deal with their issues and watch them suffer. As harsh as all that sounds, these were my honest feelings. Either way, it didn’t take long for God to put that issue to bed for me after Abby left Planned Parenthood.

My work days started off with one of my favorite groups of students. These were my students with the most severe disabilities. There were about 10 kids in this class, but only 3-5 could go with me for PE. None of them could talk. If anything, they mostly made noises that we had to interpret. Some could walk, and some were in wheel chairs. They all wore adult diapers. I knew most of the kids in this group pretty well. When I showed up to their room, me and a couple assistants would take all the kids that could walk to the gym and see if we could get some physical activity out of them. Believe it or not, this was pretty fun. Those kids had some of the funniest quirks, and getting any kind of reaction out of them was a great triumph.

There was one student in this room that I never had much interaction with. He was between 18-20 years old and I can’t remember his diagnosis or what ailed him. What I knew about him is that he had a condition that caused is muscles to harden and contract. Every time I walked in he would be sleeping in a hospital bed. They only woke him up to change his diaper, eat, and work on physical therapy. I only saw him awake a couple times, and I can tell you that all movement was extremely painful for him. He would cry and moan in agony over the simplest movements. For us, holding a fork is a simple task, for him it was excruciating. The poor kid did not seem to have much quality of life. Or so it seemed.

About two weeks after abby left Planned Parenthood, this young man got sick and was unable to recover. One morning I walked into the classroom and was told that he had passed away. There was a great deal of emotion in the room. Some of these women had spent the majority of their day caring for him over several years. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a sense of relief that the he wasn’t suffering anymore. My heart was still hard.

The next day, most of the teachers that worked with him went to his funeral. When they got back, everything they told me about the service would change my heart forever. As far as I knew, he was bed ridden his entire life. I assumed he was never able to communicate, never able to do anything on his own, and always in pain. For three years I walked by his bed taking for granted the impact his life had on other people. Shame on me.

As it turned out, it was standing room only at his funeral. Tons of people showed up to support his family and say goodbye to a young man that had touched their lives. The ladies told me  about a slide show presented that included tons of pictures of him throughout his life. He was playing sports, riding a tricycle as a toddler, hugging his parents, laughing and smiling… not one picture was of him suffering. Every picture told the story of a very happy and brave little boy. I was blown away. I wanted to know more about him and his family. Why didn’t I bother to get to know him while he was alive? My preconceived notions about “quality of life” were absolutely shattered. It was right then that I knew God was trying to get my attention. And he had a firm grip on it.

In that moment, the purpose of my job became crystal clear. I was not there for a pay check. People with special do not exist to entertain us. They are not here as a burden to society. I was there to serve them. We are all meant to serve each other in some form. After hearing about the turn out at that boys funeral, I realized that all life is precious. All life has meaning. His life was not without love or purpose. He was loved by his family, friends, teachers, and caregivers. It is a shame that not everyone experiences this kind of unconditional love.

It would have been so easy to let him wither away and die. Some people would have called for him to be euthanized. Others would have scolded his parents for not aborting him. “How dare you force him to live a life of pain and suffering?!” “It is unfair to make his life a burden on others!!” “It would be more humane to end his life in the womb.”  God gives us suffering as a gift. Suffering is a way for us to bond with others, be a wittiness to Christ, and an opportunity to grow closer to and glorify God. I believe this is 100% by design. Why do you think babies start out so vulnerable? We suffer through late night feeding, diaper changes, lack of social life, and everything else that humbles us in child raising. The amount of care a person needs throughout their life should have no baring on their value as a human being. No matter the stage of life, here is something very bonding about caring for another human being. (You know this to be true if you ever changed an adult diaper. Once that happens, your in it together forever.) Next time you see a person who seems to be suffering and you ask why God is allowing it, know that God has a plan for that person. It is never in vain.

How awesome is our God that he can use two tragic deaths to change the lives of two people? Our only hope is to repay those lives by letting God use us to tell those stories and change the lives of others.

 

“All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Pope Francis
– A message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life in Britain and Ireland July 28, 2013

32 comments

  1. Doug, your article is great! Your honesty in sharing your experiences gives witness to the value of life… Where I am, there are many with physical and mental disabilities (each family has one or two) because cousin marriages is the norm. For decades, religious institutions take care of the needs of the handicapped but vocations are wanting. It’s only now that the media began to speak about the negative consequences of marrying relatives but Canon Law already said no (a long time ago) until third level of consanguinity. It’s a great responsibility to stand for the total well-being of the unborn.

  2. As the mother of a multiply handicapped, amazingly beautiful, and talented daughter I couldn’t agree with you more. The gift she is to the world…priceless. And now as one who needs more help due to health issues which cause constant, unrelenting pain I appreciate the service my beloved husband gives to me. Her life, my life, everyone’s life is so valuable, unique and blessed. Those who would miss out on the giving or receiving of service are poor indeed.

  3. I loved this blog entry. I have Rhuematoid arthritis since age 26 and am now 50. I have become very disabled over the past 24 years and am in pain 24/7. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world! I have grown in my love for the Lord because of it, and have seen my family and friends grow also. Is my life worth living???? A definite “YES”! It makes me real sad when people don’t embrace the life God gives them. God Bless

    Linda

  4. Dear Doug, great article! This is the first I article I have read from you. I may have to start following your blog! It is quite evident that God used people like Elizabeth McClung and Shawn Carney in Abby’s conversion. I have often wondered and actually speculated that her husband had to have played a big role, too. It is equally evident that God is using the both of you to reach people like us. I will continue to pray for you and Abby, for ATTWN, and for an abortion free world.

    Btw, do you do speaking engagements? Love to bring you in to Shreveport-Bossier for our next 40DFL/SAFL event. God bless you and all your readers!

  5. Doug, that really is the point so much of our discussion about the ‘quality of life’ misses. And I’ll admit, I had to do a bit of home care for the elderly before I realized how much of a blessing it is to be able to care for other people. It’s weird and counter-intuitive, but it’s still true. Fulfillment doesn’t come from what we receive. It comes from what we give. When God told us to feed the hungry, clothe the cold and visit the imprisoned, He wasn’t telling us to sacrifice our potential. He was telling us how to reach our potential.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing so bewutiful ly and truthful. You know what you speak about and I have learned a lot from this blog today. God bless you.

  7. am really humbled by your story,may God bless you

  8. Abby is right this is one of your best blogs, thank you for sharing, before I got to know you through your blogs I prayed Abby’s husband would be supportive of her deadication to the prolife movement, now I know my prayers were answered, may God continue to bless you, and keep the blogs coming.

  9. Wow…. What a beautiful change of heart… God is faithful… Thanks for sharing. You and your wife are amazing people. Keep doing what God has called you to do… It matters. God bless you both!

  10. This story is so beautiful. I do not know what else to comment, but to say thank you for sharing.

  11. Thanks for your post, it was very moving and it’s honesty really touched me.

  12. Thank you so much for this! I am a music therapist who works in Special Education and this is exactly how I feel. 🙂

  13. I have been a staff member at a Pregnancy Resource Center for 22 years. I have been the mother to a severely disabled child for 19 years. Although I have always been strongly pro-life, I can’t begin to tell you how much more that conviction came alive for me by caring for my daughter. She has no words, no ability to care for even her most basic needs, and you said it correctly, Doug, taking that kind of care of someone is very bonding. My daughter has been the biggest lesson to me of the value of
    e-v-e-r-y life!! She has impacted so many people who whose job it was to serve her. They all say the blessing has been theirs to have been given that privilege.

  14. Thank you for sharing this touching story. How easy it is for us to give lesser value to those who are weak or suffering or abled different then ourselves.
    Dignity is given in many forms. It is in the way we treat others, in the way we care for others, in the way we talk to others and in the way we talk about others.
    I worked in the nursing field for ten years, mostly with our elderly and aged populations. They deserve dignity and respect far more then any of we “productive” members of society…such things they have seen!…when you talk about adult “diapers”, it actually degrades the value and experience of that person. Babies wear diapers. Adults wear briefs. I know there will be back lash about such a petty thing, but think about it for a moment. When you say briefs instead of adult diapers it changes the whole context of who YOU are as a person; to give such regard for another as to not say embarrassing things about them. Because to say an adult must wear a diaper is embarrassing for them. Dignity. Every life is precious. Far better for you to say someone must wear a brief actually gives them dignity that they may have been lacking.
    Just food for thought. I hope many people read this and if it doesn’t change their word usage, maybe it will make them think twice about what they say. Who knows.
    Please know I say these things out of love and not to cause you harm.
    Many blessings to you, Doug on Tap. God bless your ministry my friend.

    • Thanks, I will keep that in mind. I agree that dignity matters. I used to get very upset with parents that sent their kids to school in rags and hand-me-downs clothes. Some would send them in the same clothes as the day before. Then the parents would show up well dressed and in a nice car.

    • Thanks for that comment. My daughter wears night pants, not diapers. 🙂
      And remembering to use “people first” wording is respectful as well.
      Saying you know a PERSON with Down’s Syndrome rather than a Down’s child is granting dignity and respect to the person.
      These are subtle, seemingly insignificant issues; but they do matter to those who suffer the indignity of being referred to, or known, by their affliction rather than their personhood.
      Keep on writing these great blogs–I’m hooked.
      May God bless you and use you for His glory.

      • Yeah. Even still I have a hard time with person first language. I have never noticed a change in my love or respect for a person based on the order of my words. I get that it matters, and I want speak in a way that keeps everyone’s feelings in mind. I am almost worried that when I tell funny stories about my students that some will think I am laughing at them and not with them. It was such a family atmosphere, and I hope i am able to convey that. I miss my kids greatly. I miss their view of the world, their ability to adapt, their honest words, everything. Either way I will keep what you and a hand full of others have mentioned to me in mind. I want to tell my stories from my job. I think some are entertaining and some are moving. Over all, I want to do it in a way that brings awareness and dignity to them.

  15. I have been horrified by some things I’ve read this week…a mother being lauded overseas for starving her special needs child to death tops the list. As the mother of a severely disabled fourteen year old, it’s hard not to feel anxious about what such a world holds for his future. It lightened my heart to read this, thank you.

  16. My sister who lives with my husband and me is legally blind and somewhere on the Autism spectrum. She is a delight and everyone who meets her is touched by her wonderful personality. She likes to be hugged, she knows when to talk and when to be quiet, and she doesn’t mind any change in her routine. If she had not been born, the world would have missed a special gift. God Bless all who help special needs people!

  17. My Godfather’s wife is a Special Ed teacher and one of her students is a failed abortion. I can’t help but think how “normal” his life would be if his mom would have let him be at peace in her womb.

  18. This is a wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I really like what you said in the end, “The amount of care a person needs throughout their life should have no baring on their value as a human being.” that moved me, thank you

    • well said; if the majority had their way, we would eliminate anyone in need, thereby eliminating emotions such as caring, compassion, and empathy

      • a quick note to the moderator…there are a couple of typos in the article which takes away from the meaning..for instance it says “be a wittiness” to Christ….can this be corrected?…excellent article

        • I warned everyone about my bad spelling and grammar. I will have to fire my editor. I don’t think she’ll mind. I pay her in home cooked meals and hugs.
          Thanks for the heads up.

          • If Abby ever needs a break, I would happily proofread for you (for free)! I’ve done some freelance editing and I love helping people polish their writing. Just throwing this out there. 😉

          • You may be on the hook for a lot of work now.

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