When I was pregnant I heard so many people with kind intentions tell me, “but babies who have Down Syndrome are the cutest.”
I would nod my head in agreement but in the back of my mind the only response I’d want to say was, “but will you think my son is cute when he’s an adult?” “Are you seeing his worth because looks will fade.” “Will you see his value if one day he is helping you bag your groceries at the store?” “Will you know how proud I am of him for doing that job because someone saw past his disability and hired him?”
I don’t lose many tears over him being a baby. That’s the easy part.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
I would describe myself as ignorantly blind before I had Emmett. Not my fault or yours. Because until you’ve received an experience that changes your perspective, by flipping your entire world as you know it upside down, you just can’t put yourself in others shoes. My dear sweet boy, Emmett, he makes this world so much clearer. We don’t even realize how we unintentionally measure the worth and value of people according to the worldly idea of success. When God gave Emmett to me, He didn’t just give me a son. He gave me insight to how broken our world is and how blinded we all are.
Now, when I see any person who has a disability working in a job, I immediately think of how proud their mother is of them. How hard they’ve worked to get this job that so many other people would deem as unsuccessful. Applying for jobs in the past used to be so insignificant to me. It’s a process. You fill in the blanks and click click it’s done! Now I dread seeing the end of that process. You know the part at the end where it asks if you have a disability? I get to this part and feel nauseous. Like someone punched me in the gut because I know my son will always be required to click yes at this part. The screening goes on to explain how the company doesn’t discriminate against disabilities… they do. They just did. They make you disclose that personal information before even agreeing to meet you in person. My heart swells with rejection by just one single page of words.
We moved to the heart of Silicon Valley in October of 2019. The movers had arrived at our new home to unpack our belongings and I needed to go to the employee health department of my new job to finish my new hire paperwork. We agreed to divide up the kids and so I took Emmett with me while Hayden stayed back home. My car was still being shipped from Nashville so I was forced to take an Uber to our destination. On the way home from our appointment, our Uber driver was a kind man in his 50’s, and easily engaged us in conversation. I explained how we had just moved here and only stepped off the plane a mere three days ago from Nashville. His face lit up as he began to explain how he too was a Southerner from Florida. The topic of the conversation was then shifted towards the difference between Silicon Valley and the South. I expressed that I had not been here long enough to determine the cultural differences but asked how he would describe the change. He went on to explain the number one difference he has noticed is that everyone wants to portray their success here. He continues to say, “You will notice they drive nice cars, have nice houses, talk a lot about themselves, and their career successes.”
I nodded while listening to him continue to speak but there were no words I had left to say. I couldn’t believe I had just moved to one of the most vain places to live in the country with my child who has special needs. The fight to defend my child’s worth just turned into what felt like a mountain to climb.
That climb took a turn to Everest when I was sitting at work one day. One of my sweet coworkers, mother of three, was expressing how frustrating it is to parent here in this community. She went on to describe how her sons teacher was pushing for him to be better in math. She explained her son is an average student, but here in the Bay Area, that is not good enough. Average is viewed poorly and parents are pushing their children to be nothing short of exceptional. It made her so sad the amount of pressure her typical child faced at school because of this culture of excellence. She spoke of a story regarding another mom she knew who’s daughter’s first grade class had a “career” day at school. All of the kids were saying what they wanted to be when they grew up. This mother had over heard another little boy in the class tell his mom that he wanted to become a pilot. In turn his mother’s response to him was, “you will not be a pilot. Pilots are glorified Uber drivers.” Is your mouth open in gaping disbelief right now? Because mine sure was at hearing this story.
The world defines the value of an individual through who is more popular, prettier, skinner, or has the most likes on social media. Emmett and Hayden’s value will never fade because they are not defined by what the world says they are worth. Their existence was comprised by an Almighty God and they were made in His imagine. Only He determines their worth. What if we didn’t ask our children what they wanted to be when they grow up? Instead asking them, “who’s life do you want to make an impact on and how are you going to reach that goal?” We cannot take our success to Heaven. We can’t take our cars, houses, bonuses, or career advances. Do you know what we can take though? We can take others with us. When we impact other people by showing them God’s love; we stand a good chance of God moving in their lives.
We truly succeed in this life by impacting others for His glory and not our own.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”