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Baby Steps

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January 2019

Some people are born with the gift. Bill Murray is one. He can make people laugh, really hard. He’s a pro at it. Murray isn’t best known as a stand-up comic doing shows at nightclubs and college campuses, though he’s surely done plenty. Murray’s claim to fame is more as a comedic screwy-character actor, the screwier the better.

In his movie “What About Bob?” Murray plays Bob Wylie, a thirty-something New York City guy. Bob isn’t just a neurotic; he’s a neurotic’s neurotic. His best—and only—friend is a goldfish. He stresses over leaving his apartment. He’s afraid to touch doorknobs. He remains a helpless, hopeless neurotic until he meets Dr. Leo Marvin, a psychologist whose ship is about to come in. Dr. Marvin gives Bob his best-selling new book, Baby Steps. In hilarious fashion Bob regains his sanity, and in the process drives Marvin nuts.

Actually, there’s truth to what the doctor was selling. Baby steps are how life works. We grow imperceptibly. We learn incrementally. We move forward gradually, crawling before we walk, walking before we run. None of it is particularly easy at the start. There’ll be lots of growing pains along the way. Lots of confusion, lots of questions about what we’re supposed to know. And certainly lots of banged heads and scraped knees as we learn to put one foot ahead of the other. But it all comes over time, and eventually, we get there. After a while, we become so sure of ourselves that we take the whole process, and everything we can do, for granted.

But some people do not have that luxury. They come to this earth with challenges we can understand in a way but not fully appreciate. They have struggles we’ll never experience. Their bodies will be stunted, or differently formed, or both, and there is little, if anything, they can do about it. Their minds do not receive same signals, or process the same information, as us. They will never learn as quickly or as much as we do. And as for walking, they will have trouble crawling. Some will have trouble even standing.

Worst of all, some will never be given a chance to live the happy and productive lives that God intends for them. Their lives are being taken from them before they are can ever see the world that we see. It is largely the result of the increased use of pre-natal genetic screening. Screening has been around for decades. Around 1960, newborns began to be tested for PKU, a metabolic disorder. Around the same time, pre-natal screening was used to check for the possibilities of Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis. Today, testing has become incredibly more sophisticated. Tests have been developed to allow scientists to look at all 46 chromosomes of an unborn human to detect potential problems down the road. One company says that its test will be able to screen for 3,500 anomalies. Sounds like a big advance in medical science, doesn’t it?

It comes with an even bigger problem. The tests generally don’t help in treating children with physical or mental challenges. Their real purpose is to eliminate (translate: kill) those who might have health conditions. In the U.S. alone, 66-90% of all pregnant women who test positive for a Down syndrome child will abort them. Demark boasts that 98% of all unborn babies testing positive for Down syndrome are aborted. And though Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion politicians are all in favor, they never seem to ask the question: who are we to judge whether an unborn baby’s life, even a life filled with challenges, is worth living?

Perhaps we should let those with special needs provide the answer. Maya, who has cerebral palsy, took her first steps at age four. Watch as beaming with pride, Maya shouts out, “I’m walking! Yes! I’m walking, you guys! I even took a big step!” Maya is the picture of pure joy, a joy that in out take-it-for-granted world we rarely feel. She knows the failures, false starts, and endless struggles. But Maya also knows the success. She knows the joy of life. She deserves the right to live life in all the fullness she can.

We know a dear little girl who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. To her it matters not; her life is filled with happiness. During summers she attends a physical therapy camp with other kids there to develop their abilities. Brianna, age 11, is working on sidestepping; she can’t wait to learn math with fractions. Jordan, age 10, can now color inside the lines and use scissors; he plans to be a Chicago police officer. At age 5, Abby can sit at a table; she believes she can do anything.   At age eight, Matt can now go to the bathroom and get dressed himself; he plans to be a teacher and make his students smile. Eighteen-year old Eliza is proud that she can use utensils and get in and out of bed. And this from eight-year old Steven: “Even though I am different from other kids my age, I am just like them!” The wisdom of a child.

All of them are just like us. They have our struggles, and much worse. But they also have our hopes and dreams, big hopes and dreams that keep them going. Their desire to achieve should keep us going. Having trouble getting out of bed? Think of what it takes for Eliza to get out. Lacking purpose? Think of Jordan’s dream of being a police office. Though aware of their limitations, kids with special needs don’t feel stopped by them. So just as they desperately need our help, we desperately need theirs. They can inspire us to do more and better. That’s how God’s plan works—people helping people.

On January 18, hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, will be taking their own steps. You hear little, if anything, from the media about it. They’ll be joining the annual March for Life in cities across the country. They’ll be walking to give the unborn, whatever their circumstances, a chance to show the world what God has planted within each one. He has given everyone a gift. It’s a shame to waste even one.

 

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2019. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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