We have fought so hard for this day. So much grace has brought us here. So many mountains are behind us and still so many lay before us, but we were so ready to celebrate this day. Today was a day that we had waited so many months for. It is the day that my daughter begins her special education journey. Sadly, I was shocked and then deflated last night as I saw the comments that the president of the National Education Association (NEA), Lily Eskelsen Garcia said about students like my daughter. I tried to be positive, but honestly, a few tears escaped from my eyes. I looked at my daughter who has worked so hard to get here and has so many great lessons still to teach us ,and yet, before her first day, she is labeled by the president of her future educational system as “chronically tarded and medically annoying”, while other students that have less outward brokenness are given the title of talented and gifted. Somehow, the moment before us began to fall flat for me no matter how hard I tried to reason it away. How has this woman, with such arrogance and lack of respect for her most specially GIFTED students landed the job of president of the NEA?! IF she feels that it is acceptable to publicly (or privately for that matter) call these precious human lives derogatory names, then I hope someone has the nerve to tell her that she is the one who is missing out on the blessing of genuinely serving such a special group of people. These children already face ten fold more than most “typical” students do just to get through the day and they do NOT deserve to be treated this way by ANYONE, let alone the president of the NEA!! This attitude is so pervasive in our society and I pray every morning that I won’t become calloused and indifferent, because this mindset is a critical issue that is stripping our society of the value of human lives and this mindset’s tentacles are dangerously far reaching.
I have given my life to running a non profit for people with special needs who are transitioning out of the school system and I have a sister who was blessed with Down Syndrome. She is one of my most trusted friends and one of my most respected teachers. I cannot even fathom the sheer number of sweet babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome that are not even given the chance to live out their lives let alone be embraced by society as adults. I work day and night to find jobs for my friends with special gifts. I lose countless hours of sleep over the things I have witnessed. I have seen hundreds of special needs adults wasting away in group homes who have been stripped of their dignity and worth. These are incredible people with so much to offer us, yet they sit in various places with nothing meaningful to do with their lives, so over time, they will inevitably get lost in a world of dream because the present emptiness is just too much to bear every single day. These are human beings who have limitations in their bodies and minds but are so fully alive and well in their spirit, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is precisely the places that we “typical” folks are most broken…in our spirits. Furthermore, just because their bodies might have limitations, doesn’t mean they feel any less than we do, in fact, people who have special needs are far more sensitive emotionally because they have been so closely associated with difficulty, hurt and pain.
I will tell you though, that I will not be defeated! I will continue to hope recklessly for my daughter, my sister, my dear friends and for those whom I have yet to befriend! I will see the silver lining in this! The silver lining that Lily Eskelsen Garcia did do something positive through her ignorance. She shed some light on the discrimination that people with special needs deal with everywhere they go. I can tell you because I have firsthand experience, but I can choose to hang on to hope because there are so many good people in this world. Good folks who will join with individuals with disabilities, young and old, that have been specially made by a sovereign Lord who has a plan and purpose for their existence and His plans are always good! So, today, I will send my daughter to school with a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat with the faith of a mustard seed that the best days are ahead of us, and that is all the faith God needs to move the mightiest of mountains!!