Yesterday was the traditional choir Easter program in our ward. I have never been in such a musically gifted ward before. We have former music teachers and members of the Orchestra on Temple Square, a bounty of gifted singers and many, many talented pianists. I always look forward to the Christmas and Easter programs because I know I will leave filling so blessed by the power music has to convey spiritual truths.
This year's selections highlighted so many of my favorite hymns, especially an amazing men's choir rendition of 'Lord, I Would Follow Thee'. In between the numbers, passages and scriptures were given by a narrator. About half way into the program, whole making the point that the are worse things than death, the narration spoke specifically about the trials in life that are worse than dying. While a number of examples were given, there were three that really struck me as ignorant and insensitive. Now, let me preface my criticism with the firm knowledge that I know the sweet lady who was the narrator was not relating her own opinion, but text that was given to her. I hold no ill will towards her at all. In truth, I hold no ill will to whomever wrote it; I just wish they thought over their choice of examples. The three examples of "fate worse than death" were being born mentally impaired, being blind, and being deaf. First, I am very blessed to have a disabled sister. In spite of the added challenges it has brought into her life and will continue to bring, she has joy in her life. She relishes in her successes and being able to prove people wrong. She has a strong testimony of the love of our Savior and touches all those who meet her with it. She finds happiness and fulfillment in serving and working with those who are more profoundly disabled than her. I can't imagine my sister being a better person without her disabilities- maybe she'd have an easier life, but as it is her life is how God intended it to be, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.
I don't think I have to expand too much on why the blind or deaf comments bugged me. The moment they were uttered, I turned to James and said (rather loudly) "there is absolutely nothing wrong with my boys. They are going to live happy, successful lives like everyone else. They'll just happen to do it blind". It bothers me so much when people think that blind or hearing impaired people are disabled; the only disability they have is people assuming they can't do something. It makes my skin crawl when people suggest that my boys learn to play the piano because "all blind people are good at that!" Breaking down the stereotypes and expectations is something I have to fight with my boys from time to time when a classmate asks how they can be an artist if they can't see, or any other profession that "needs" sight. It has taken many conversations and google sessions to convince Noah that the only thing he can't become as a blind person is a pilot or a surgeon, and even then who knows? There may be advances in technology that make even that possible. I know the same stereotypes are placed on deaf individuals. Blind and deaf people do not need pity. Not is theirs a fate worse than deaf. They are exactly who they are supposed to be. A long time ago, when Noah was first diagnosed, I talked to him about why God wanted him to be blind. He was very emotional and scared, as any child would be. In one of those moments where you feel Heaven's presence right beside you, I testified to Noah that he knew before he was even born that he would have these challenges. That he promised his Heavenly Father that he would accept any and all callings He had, and that our Father knew Noah could handle them because he was so very strong and faithful. Over the last six years, Noah has found comfort and understanding in that promise: that those who are given extra challenges in this life were given them because Heavenly Father knew they could not only handle them, but flourish and find happiness in them.
I guess the reason I wanted to share this is to ask everyone, including myself, to think twice before assuming that because someone is different that there is something "wrong" with them. We are all exactly who God created us to be. Problems are all about perspective: What seems like a mountain to one might be a mole hill to another. I cannot fathom losing a child. Every time I think about the pain of watching a child struggle through cancer, I silently think "at least my boys aren't in pain or fighting for their lives. They can grow and be happy and successful". So for me, there is a whole world of things worse than being blind.