Who is worthy of care, and who is not? How do we measure this? There is no meter and we can’t tell by looking. We do tend to judge others by their appearance: Beautiful people receive more attention and more education, make more money, get away with more crimes and so on. Homeless people are generally shunned. But appearance alone can’t tell us who is worthy.
Years ago when my partners and I ran a small community newspaper, we published an annual issue filled with the stories of people with disabilities–who mostly referred to themselves as the able-disabled. After an initial period of, “Why me?” and maneuvering the stages of grief about their losses, most of them gave themselves a figurative kick in the rear and learned how to live life as fully as possible anyway. I cannot tell you how inspiring they were, not just to us but to our readers, also.
A story that stays with me thirty years later was about an organization established to give employment to people with birth defects like cerebral palsy. I don’t remember all the illnesses but I remember my shock when we walked through the room where they worked. The people weren’t just in wheelchairs–they were curled into ball shapes or their bodies so twisted, one part faced one direction and others in another. One person couldn’t sit; she could only work lying on her back. Most had what we consider low mental capacities and a good number couldn’t speak. One young man was hunched and twisted in a wheelchair and there was just something about him. His job was to slowly unwrap himself, force his upper body and arm up to slap a piece of paper hanging above him. We looked into each other’s eyes and I saw that there was somebody home! He couldn’t talk—he made grunting kinds of noises. Every time he slapped the paper, his smile was huge and he earned a penny. He liked showing us what he could do and getting a paycheck every week. I was quiet when we left.
The woman who ran the place had a disabled child and when she gave him a job at home he was so much happier, she decided to raise funds for as many people as she could who would benefit from working. To see that they were accepted and loved and encouraged—to be valued at work, stirred me in unexpected ways. I’ve mostly been a compassionate person moved by the plights of other people, but after visiting this caring place, I had to acknowledge that human value is not what we think it is. It is not athletic ability or musical talent or physical beauty or high IQs; it is something related to our souls, the spark of light given to each of us by our Creator. Who is worthy of care? Every single one of us. Who deserves to love and be loved? You, me and every other human being. Who deserves a quality education and meaningful employment? All of us. Who matters? Look around. The whole world and everyone on it is of great import. We can help; we can make a difference in others’ lives, somehow. It is our destiny.