It was Flannery O’Connor who pointed out that many people look at defective children and use them as an excuse to stop believing in God. She also said that someday we would have a world that would question why such children are allowed to be born.
She made this prediction in 1961, in her introduction to “A Memoir of Mary Ann,” about a girl born with a cancerous tumor on her face, who lived at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home in Atlanta. This was long before it had become commonplace to cull imperfect babies before birth.
Many will argue that we should do all in our power to get rid of handicaps, so we can have a heaven on earth. The whole idea, they say, is to eliminate suffering, which is all these poor children do.
But if you’ve spent time with special-needs kids, you soon discover they are capable of the full range of human emotions, and that includes hope and joy.
I have witnessed the tremendous efforts expended by a couple raising a boy with autism and Down syndrome. I have also seen the enormous energy poured into the little blind girl at church. In both cases, I have thought, “These parents are saints.”
Still, they just see themselves as loving their kids in the best way they can. And they know children aren’t just masses of cells and neurons. Instead, children are, in Christ’s words, the “least of these.” And he said that whatever we do to these little ones, we are doing to God.
So I do believe that in God’s plan, there is plenty of room for the imperfect kids. True, they may never walk or talk or learn higher math. But they teach us something science can never grasp, which is how to love.