Saturday, March 13, 2010

Enabling Greatness

Alexandre Bilodeau. Susan Boyle. Maddy Curtis. These are a few names from over the last year or so of people who have inspired us.

Alexandre Bilodeau with his brother, Frederic who has Cerebral Palsy, during the men's moguls final in the FIS World Cup event at Mont Gabriel in 2006. Bilodeau won the gold medal. (Francois Roy/Canadian Press)

Athlete. Singer. Aspirant. Is it these qualities which move us to admiration or stir our emotions so strongly? Lots of people compete, sing, and aspire. Is it because they have overcome adversity, because they are the underdogs? We do like those things, but lots of people do that, too.

Or is it because these people radiate a love that is bigger than themselves, one that is perhaps purer, nobler, or more selfless? I think that is closer to the mark.

These inspirational people love and strive, and they inspire us to rise to that next level of selflessness, make us want to be like them. That is their greatness -- because that is the greatness of Christ. There was an old, homely looking woman from Calcutta, dirt poor and spending her life's energy on tending to society's rejects who inspired the world: Mother Teresa.

And it is the undervalued, disabled, and unwanted people whom they serve who make these people great. Because their love is focused outward and not inward - that is what makes them so attractive to us. When we read about people who inordinately love themselves we call them selfish, self-absorbed, and arrogant.

No, it is the "lesser" people who have made these people into heroes -- and quite possibly, they never would have been great without them. That is the gift that disabled persons, especially mentally disabled persons, bring to us. Yes, they are disabled: their meanness is disabled; their cynicism is disabled; greed, ambition, lust -- all disabled.

I bristle when people try to argue that their "quality of life" will be poor or "not worth living". This is a specious argument which is hiding their own selfish motive: they don't wish to be inconvenienced. Disabled people have something that we lack: they will most likely reach more of their complete potential than we will; they will most likely be happier than we will because they are simpler. Sophistication, by contrast, is traditionally counted among the sins of pride.

So instead of despising the lowly, or trying rid our society of the sick or disabled by force, we should view their presence as a gift -- an opportunity to be great.

So our family has its Muse: a little boy with Down Syndrome called Nub. God decided that we should have a shot at greatness.

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