Imperfect kids have a place in the plan

Lorraine V. Murray’s books include “The Abbess of Andalusia,” a biography of Flannery O’Connor with a chapter about Mary Ann’s life at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home. Her email is Follow her on Twitter: @lorrainevmurray

Oh, what would it take to make this a perfect day? I sometimes wonder. Well, if the sun were shining more brightly and if my house were spotless from stem to stern, wouldn’t that be a flawless day?

But, of course, it never is, because the weather is always just a little bit off and the house somewhat chaotic. Still, some believe that by tweaking this and that, the world can reach a place of perfection, where the climate is controlled, viruses are vanquished and heartbreaks are halted.

Unfortunately, in that quest, some people also want perfect children. And science allows parents to find out ahead of time through genetic testing if certain ailments are present in a baby. When Down syndrome is detected, 90 percent of those children are never born, researchers have reported.

At church on Sunday, I see the parents who accepted the children God sent them. There are some with Down syndrome, the girls carefully decked out in frilly dresses and the boys in tailored suits. And there is a little girl who cannot walk or see, but she is the apple of her adoptive parents’ eyes.

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.