The quality of life is a hot topic in our society. Tragically, there are many who, for the sake of convenience, disregard those whose “quality of life” does not measure to their standards. One group that so many often undervalue is the one with Down syndrome. There are some whose hearts have grown so callous and calculating, that one wonders where our society is heading if more of their thinking pervades our society. Not every decision in life is an economic decision.
How do we teach our children about the sanctity of life and that every human life is special? How to we impress on our culture that life is not something that we should treat so cheaply? What can be done to reach those who have such an “optimization” mentality to show them that what may not be optimal is not necessarily undesirable?
One of the ways we attempt to teach our children about the sanctity of life is to take them to nursing homes. Where we attend, we have a regular nursing home service each month. We make it a point not only to attend but to also be sure your children interact with the residents there. How will they know to love old people or those unable to care for themselves if they do not spend time with them? Where we attend there is a lady who has Down syndrome. She is one of the sweetest residents there. My children enjoy visiting with her. What does one think their attitude will be toward those less fortunate? For parents who say things like “Going to the Nursing Home is not for me”, pray that you never have to be a resident of one yourself! What if your children grow up with such an attitude? I often wonder that if I am in a nursing home some day if anyone from the churches will even care to visit much less conduct a service there.
One of the many wonderful people I had the privilege of hearing about and eventually meeting from my wife’s home congregation is James Haakenson or Jimmy. Jimmy was born with Down syndrome in 1945. In his day, people did not know much about this condition. Even diagnosing his condition was a major challenge for doctors. Imagine trying to rear a child with Down syndrome in Alaska. Jimmy had a tremendous work ethic and was able to rise above assumed limitations to astound everyone who knew him. He was able to hold a job at the local school district and serve in the worship services of the church. While he did not understand everything, he did understand the gospel and, at his insistence, was immersed for the remission of his sins. He knew that baptism was not only a serious matter, it was an imperative matter! The title of this book is Jimmy’s pronunciation of one of his favorite hymns “Onward, Christian Soldiers”.
Anyone whose have ever had the blessings (and yes, burdens) of caring for children with special needs will find this book a balm of encouragement. The Haakenson family’s determination and steadfastness in supporting Jimmy is moving. They were determined to provide all they could for their son and to give him every opportunity to succeed. The life of Jimmy Haakenson will amaze you. For those who do not understand or have never been exposed to this type of situation, the book will give you some insight into the life of the families with children of special needs. It will show you that, while some may consider such conditions as undesirable, God’s blessings and grace outshines all.
President Reagan once stated, “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life--the unborn--without diminishing the value of all human life.” This is true. One needs to remember what happened when the world allowed a governmental regime the power to begin sterilizing and killing for the sake of society—The Holocaust. If our nation continues to allow the slaughter of innocents on one side of the journey of life, then what makes one believe it will stop its hand at the other side of the journey of life? May we truly be able to wish for God’s love and mercy as we have been demonstrating it to all of our citizens.