All of God’s Children Are Gifts
by Jay Fadden
Many years ago, I used to play pickup basketball with a group of people I had met over the years. We would get together every Friday during lunch break and play at a local YMCA. The players were of all different talent levels, different ages, and from various backgrounds. I always looked forward to playing not only for the game, but also because of the relationships I had formed with the other players.
I became close with one player in particular. We were close in age and both had families we cherished. He was a kind and gentle person, but he also liked to compete on the court. He was quick with a laugh and was fun to be around. I would only see him for that one hour every Friday to play hoops.
One Friday, he brought one of his sons to the game. He wheeled him in. His son, who was about ten at the time, had been confined to a wheelchair since birth. He could not speak and needed 24/7 care. It was the first time I had met him. In fact, I did not even know about him until that day. During the game, my friend would call time and walk over to his son. He would put his arm around him and wipe his face, kiss him on his forehead, and return to the game. This moment would repeat itself about every ten minutes. When the game was over, I walked out with my friend and watched as, with great love, he picked his son up from his wheelchair and carefully put him in their van.
That night, I had many thoughts. I felt sorrow for my friend, his son, and his family for the situation in which they found themselves. I thought of my daughter and how lucky I was that I did not have a similar situation. I saw a young child who would never run, play sports, or do the many things that children enjoy. I saw a child trapped in a body that would not allow him to live a life that most of us take for granted. I just felt bad and sad.
The next week, I sat next to my friend and asked about his son. He told me that his son experienced about 30 seizures a day. He went into detail about what a day was like for him and his family and the challenges they faced. However, there was never a hint of feeling cheated or angry. Then he looked me in the eye and, with a steady and calm voice, he said something that still resonates with me today. He said, “Jay, he is my greatest gift and I thank God every day for having him in my life.” What?! I am sure that he noticed the look of puzzlement on my face. He then said, “I love my son. It is not what I do for him, but what he does for me and my family. The way he looks at me or squeezes my hand when I hold his hand. He makes me a better person than I would have been without him. He is a gift that continues to amaze me. He does not talk, but he says so much. I am so lucky to have him.”
I sat there for a moment without saying a word. WOW! It was me who had just been given a gift. I had been looking at the situation the wrong way. I had been seeing the young man as a burden, not as a child of God, and certainly not as an inspiration. As I sit here today and write this blog, I can vividly remember that moment and the effect it had on my life. We are all parts of the body, as St. Paul tells us, and each of us is important and vital. That young boy is courageous and strong, and now I know what a gift he is not only to his family, but to all whose lives he touched.