When I met Rick Santorum this weekend, if hearing him speak and getting him to sign the book, Bella’s Gift
, that he and his wife wrote counts as meeting him, I gave him a copy of Welcome to the Big Leagues. He remembered Darrel!
Below is a picture of “The Dream Team” of Broken Tree Ministry. I am proud to know its founder and consider Steve an inspiration. He is not “just-a” disabled guy. He says he is “different-abled.”
For the next couple of weeks this blog is going to focus on the “special-needs” challenge to a life that matters.
Steve is profoundly affected by cerebral-palsy. But, he and his wife Jill, also affected by CP have founded a ministry to help the broken. Check out Steve’s web site (www.brokentreecommunity.org) and/or our blog for a bigger story of encouragement.
Steve faces challenges every time he moves. But he is one of those guys that comes along every so often, that motivates anyone who gets close enough to him to observe the ways he lives his life. He might not play baseball, but his is an all-star in my book, and inspires me to realize every life matters, including my own.
Rick and Karen Santorum’s daughter, Bella, was born with a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18, or Edward’s Syndrome. Most children born with this diagnosis rarely make it to their first birthday.
A big-time baseball fan, George Will praises the Santorums and the book when he writes, “The radiant truth about special-needs children, such as the Santorums’ Bella, is that they give to those around them something that we all need. This gift, that suffuses every page of this marvelous book, is the reminder that every life is sanctified by the capacity to receive and respond to love.”
There is much pain that accompanies the blessings that ultimately come through these valuable lives.
Steve was telling me about a time when he was travelling–he can drive with special equipment in his vehicle. Self-service pumps are something most of us handle with little difficulty, except perhaps the temporary smell of gas on our hands. Steve managed to get the gas pumped, but then had to go into the gas station to pay. In rural Kansas the attendant wasn’t familiar with guys like Steve and didn’t know what to do, so in a common response to awkwardness, she did nothing. Steve began taking spastic and challenging steps toward the “convenient” store. He stumbled and fell. Worse, lying on his back, on the cement drive, he could not get back up. He told me about this dilemma with great humor. Together we share a hearty laugh, but at the moment it happened, it probably wasn’t so funny, especially when the attendant came out to check on him, but offered no help, as he flailed with uncooperative arms and legs.
Karen Santorum writes about her first days in the hospital. “Fruit baskets and flowers filled my hospital room and I recovered from the C-section. Rick and I were supposed to be receiving congratulatory cards celebrating the birth of a new life. Instead, paper notes with cheap expressions of sympathy mocked me from my bedside table. Did they make cards for ‘staying alive,’ not just ‘getting well’? And then there was the silence from those who did not even acknowledge Bella’s life. It was as if she did not exist. They appeared to ignore everything that made my Isabella Maria unique and wonderful. My heart was angry and bitter, lashing out in response to such acute sorrow. When my other children were born, we were overflowing with joy and left the hospital within twenty-four hours. Would my new little one know nothing but this sterile cage? Hurt and anger burned through me, searing hot in my veins…How can life and death be dealt in the same hand, at the same moment.”
Pain does not diminish the worth and special needs do not subtract value from a life. But they do make the life more difficult to live, to care for and to understand.
The “Your Life Matters” message can bring immediate encouragement. It also challenges us to view life differently and sometimes that will get us through pain and other times it will lead us into it. Karen Santorum puts it this way. “Love is a leap of faith.” This blog will only scratch the surface of this subject, but even at glance at it will be better than avoiding it altogether.
Life looks different, much better, from the perspective that every life matters. Somewhere in your life, there is someone who is going to re-calibrate the standard measurement for a life that matters. When you let it happen, your soul will expand and life will mean more.
Romans 8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.