After learning that Oliver could not be cured and being told by the doctor that Oliver could be put in an institution, your parents replied, “But he is our son. We will take Oliver home, of course.” Maybe it’s because I’m the father of a two-year-old boy and I’m particularly sensitive about things like this, but I also think that the impact of “of course” is due to the fact that it is a succinct repudiation of the looming “quality of life” argument and all its slippery slope manifestations. The “of course” is a pithy and confident affirmation of the worthiness of all human life.
Additionally, you remember how your mother explained that Oliver was a blessing in ways that were not immediately apparent? What a refreshing contrast to the compassionate crowd which views handicapped people (born and unborn) as inconvenient, cursed, burdensome, and less valuable. (POTP, p.34-35)
People say an items value is determined by what someone else would pay for it, and, for the most part, I agree. Often times, we think of this proverb as a warning against allowing our hopes to rise as we attempt to sell something. But, there is another way to apply this adage. Consider Jesus’ parable of the Hidden Treasure in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as a treasure that had been discovered in a field. The Biblical Benjamin Gates sells everything he owns so that he can purchase the field. To an ignorant person, it looks like a foolish decision to buy a worthless field. But to the informed, it was the wisest thing the discoverer could have done; it was actually quite prudent.
The true value of the field was hidden beneath the surface. The same is true of all of us.
Our founding fathers believed that “all men are created equal.” The Bible teaches this same truth. But, as a society, we don’t agree. We like to think we agree, but that cake won’t rise. We look at people like Donald Trump or the President of the United States and, noting their accomplishments, we place a value on them. Our economic system and American values place a premium on “contribution.” Trump worked hard, earned much, and has plenty to contribute. Therefore, he’s valuable. But, when we see an Oliver De Vinck we see a worthless field.
While our material contributions will vary, I believe our worth is inherent and equal. When we were created in God’s image; we were created with value. The “quality of life” argument is founded on creature comforts and ease, not inherent value. They argue that if a person can’t independently acquire stuff or will live a life that they deem difficult or uncomfortable; it’s “compassionate” to end their life. Not only do I believe their conclusion is wrong, I believe they are lying.
The “quality of life” argument is about the quality of my life, not the quality of the extraordinary person’s life. We say, “Sharon won’t be able to acquire stuff,” but we mean, “I will have to provide stuff for her.” This makes us uncomfortable and her an inconvenience.
We say, “Mark’s life will be uncomfortable,” but we mean, “I will be required to sacrifice my time and effort to assist him.” This makes us annoyed and him a burden. We aren’t concerned that they will have a lower quality of life; we are concerned we will have a lower quality of life.
With that belief entrenched in our heart; we quantify their value by what they can contribute and justify our feelings by declaring them worthless. After all, it would be ugly to say we were too selfish or lazy to care for them. Recently, I spent a morning with a group of people who the “quality of life” folks would have aborted or executed, in the name of compassion. (I was affected by the experience and I’ll write about it later). There’s no doubt that each one of those people are valuable; even if they won’t start a small business or invent the next facebook. But, many people live with a “they’re not worth it” attitude.
I hope that more of us will develop and display the “of course” attitude, modeled by Oliver’s mother.
If you find out you’re pregnant with a child who has Down’s Syndrome and are asked if you want to keep the child, you will respond, “of course.”
If you are asked to help push a wheelchair for a friend, you will respond, “of course.”
If you are a teacher who is asked to include an extraordinary child, you will respond, “of course.”
If you’re asked to volunteer with Miracle Sports or the Special Olympics, you will respond, “Of course.”
When asked if you believe that all men are created equal, you will respond, “of course!”