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Recently, my eight-year-old son left Sunday school frowning. It seems a couple of his classmates had been making fun of me. (I have moderate cerebral palsy, a birth condition that causes my erratic gait.) That afternoon, I sat down with him over clear plastic cups, each filled with two scoops of Reese's ice cream, and asked if he was embarrassed. No, he was angry. I took a deep breath. At me? At God? No, at them.

"What did you say to them?" I asked. "'If you do it again,'" he repeated, "'I'll tell your dads!'"

The innate cruelty of children needs no documentation. And their loud questions, stares, and snickering are almost to be expected when they see me wobble across a room. Little materialists, they cannot grasp how God might be working in and through me. My son, however, probably taught his two fellow Sunday schoolers something of the fierce but unseen love of a boy for his father.

Would I be happier without this physical disability? That's like asking a kid if he would like to ride a bike, play Little League baseball, or be on the swim team—all activities that I was denied while growing up in an otherwise active family. The answer is obvious. But there's a deeper question that our happiness-pursuing society too often overlooks: Would I be better off?

It used to be that children with handicaps were hidden away or left to die; in some parts of the world, they still are. Perfection was the ideal. Then, as we became more enlightened, we accepted them, as Joni Eareckson Tada says, as normal parts of an abnormal, fallen world. With this awareness came wheelchair ramps, reserved, extra-wide parking spaces, and federal laws designed to "level the playing field." However, having a disabled child still entailed sacrifice, most ...

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hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2007

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