Every life has value

I woke up  in a cold sweat yesterday morning from a nightmare.

No monsters, just random things that I was somehow responsible for popping up, with no framework in which to approach them, no common cause with others to let me know what I was responsible for.

And the triggers for my nightmare?  One is the down-to-the-wire battle over abortion reform in Texas going on right now.

Another is going to Relevant Radio’s Women of the Well breakfast series last Wednesday and hearing Dee Ann Smith's story of her struggle with and recovery from alcoholism. 

A third was lunch with a close friend who is gay and really hearing—for the first time really hearing—that he has felt for much of his life that he really is worth less than others.   He came to love Down Home Ranch because it affirms that “every life has value.”

People sometimes ask why we built the Ranch.  We’ve given them many reasons over the years, usually having to do with quality of life for our daughter, Kelly, who has Down syndrome.  But I don’t think we ever gave the truest, simplest, most obvious reason of all.

In fact, it’s so true, simple, and obvious we thought it had to be self-evident to anyone who would even ask.  The reason is this: Kelly is worth it.

Every life has value.

So eager was I to attend The Women of the Well event that I showed up at the Diocesan offices a week too soon and 25 minutes too early, and was so informed by the receptionist.  Undaunted, I reappeared last Wednesday with a deep sense of anticipation and excitement I didn't really understand. 

As I sat at the table waiting for the event to get underway, I thought, I wish I’d brought Kelly!

Although Dee Ann's talk was about her alcoholism, it touched poignantly upon the discovery of her true worth the eyes of God in the struggle.  It probed  the question of our dignity as human beings

Every life has value.

I thought about talks I've had with Kelly on occasion about abortion, and the fact that very few babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are allowed to live.  A very hard conversation to have, to which Kelly said in her simple, direct way, “I want to tell people to let them live.  I have Down syndrome, and I love my life.”

Remembering that, I recalled the meaning of the name Kelly: Warrior Woman, and smiled to myself.  Kelly and I had been signed up for the May 8th Walk for Life, but I'd gotten sick in late April wound up in the hospital so we weren't able to go.  Kelly is ready to tell people of her love for life, so this was a big disappointment for both of us.

Just then Dee Ann referred to Joan of Arc and her motto before going into battle:

I am not afraid of anything.  I was born to do this.

Hearing that was like receiving an electric shock.  I actually got the shakes at that point, and it wasn’t from the very strong coffee they had served, either.

Warrior Woman!  I was hearing a call to action.

Suddenly everything dovetailed.  No longer can I sit on the sidelines in the agonizing debate over abortion and other pro-life matters.  Over the past 28 years I have met and come to know and love literally hundreds of people with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to autism, people whose lives are seen as so worthless that they are denied entry even to life's portal.

This is about more than a casual walk for a cause.  It's a call to use all the gifts God has given me, which very much include my daughter, to reach out to others and tell our story.

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Alas, this story cannot be continued on this site.  Down Home Ranch is a 501 (c) (3) organization and as such is prohibited from engaging in activities designed to exert political pressure and sway public opinion.  Although the role of education is recognized, the government defines “education” and in order not to pose any risk to the Ranch, I have established a separate blog.

I will continue to present Ranch news, staff profiles, and invite other members of the Down Home Ranch community to share their observations on this site.

I sincerely hope you will follow me to my new site as well.  As soon as I can get it up and running, I will let you know.