When I had been here in Honduras for a few months, I noticed the large number of people with birth defects of various types. Some are beggars but many are just trying to live and survive with twisted limbs, missing limbs, and other less visible disabilities.
I also saw a fair number of people with Downs syndrome. I presume there are a number hidden away in homes and houses. I had seen one case of a young man who was just let to sit in the dirt in the patio, but when I returned a few months later he was seated in a wheel chair.
I have made an effort to go out of my way to greet these people whom much of the world despises.
But one of the great joys is the presence of Adrián. A young man with Downs, I think he is in his thirties. He is almost always present at the Masses and church events near Vertientes, where he lives with his aged parents. He goes out of the way to greet people. He helps at the altar; he plays the guitar and sings. He is a refreshing presence in these communities. And the people accept him.
I was reminded of this today as I read Give Us This Day. Today Robert Ellsberg wrote about Eunice Shriver, who died on August 11, 2009. Her work with people with disabilities in her family led her to work with the Special Olympics, reminding them at the first Special Olympics in 1968 of the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
In these days when the world is looking at the beautiful and talented athletes in Brazil, it is good to remember what she saw in people with disabilities. They are real people with names, with histories, with needs and desires like those of other people. As she told them:
“You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.”
The August 15, 2016, issue of America has an article on welcoming people with disabilities in parishes as well as a pointed column by the magazine’s editor.