Each one of us believes that our life is important. But, unfortunately, our fixation with our own significance can sometimes lead us to presume that other lives don’t matter as much as ours. Too often we fall into the trap of believing that we are superior and, therefore, by default, others are inferior.
That type of thinking leads to a substantial amount of the misery experienced by humanity.
That is why it is so important that we each do everything in our power to fight this harmful attitude. We must accept that every life has equal meaning. Gender, ethnicity, age, and disability play no part in determining the value of a person.
Every day, I witness firsthand what men and women living with a wide range of intellectual and physical challenges can accomplish when they are given the opportunities they deserve.
Throughout their lives, these adults have had to deal with the harmful misconception that their lives mattered less. Even now, society does not always embrace the diversity that is represented by people with disabilities.
That is unjust and unfair.
People who live with intellectual challenges are complete human beings. They are not just a diagnosis used to conveniently label them.
They are also sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are church members, students, neighbors, employees, friends, and citizens. They are people with hopes and dreams. They want to be appreciated. They deserve respect.
Just like you and me, these individuals are doing the best they can to build a life that they find rewarding and fulfilling.
But frequently the biggest stumbling block they face is the narrowmindedness of others.
Through no fault of their own, people with intellectual challenges are often prejudged and assumed to have issues that do not allow them to be considered equal members of society. That is a painful loss for everyone because what is sometimes perceived as differences actually show just how much we are all alike.
*A person may use a walker or a wheelchair, but their mobility matters just as much to them as someone who is physically graceful.
* A person may need to wear functional clothing because of physical challenges, but their appearance is just as acceptable as someone who wears designer labels.
* A person may have communication issues, but they have the right to have their thoughts understood just like someone who is fluent.
* A person may use public transportation, but their destination means just as much to them as it does to someone who drives a luxury car.
* A person may live in a group home, but having a residence is just as important to them as it is to someone who lives in a gated community.
These examples show that just because a person requires certain adaptions in their life it does not make them less. It makes them like everyone else because we all have limitations.
Every one of us has certain areas of life we excel at and other areas that will always remain beyond our capabilities. However, that does not diminish our worth as a person.
It is the same for people with intellectual challenges. They can achieve certain goals while others are out of reach, but that does not mean we should focus exclusively on what they can or cannot accomplish. They should always be considered in terms of their humanity.
All of society benefits when we realize that each life has the same value. When we understand that every person deserves to be treated with dignity, whether they have a disability or not, we take a giant step forward in accepting all of our citizens without reservation.
We must embrace the fact that every life matters.
There are no exceptions.