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The cheers. The flashing cameras. The encouraging words. The red carpet experience.
These are moments that those with special needs rarely have the opportunity to enjoy and yet they get to experience these moments through the Tim Tebow Foundation’s annual Night to Shine event. The evening is designed to give a prom experience centered on God’s love to people with special needs.
Friday night was my first time to speak at a Night to Shine event and I watched the night unfold at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, in total amazement. This is not the way that a night out on the town would typically go for a person with special needs.
A night out can often come with stares, tension and rude comments from people passing by at a restaurant or a store. They are seeing a nuisance – not a precious and valuable person.
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I know those rude comments and stares all too well. I also have special needs. I was born without either one of my arms. I accomplish everyday tasks like writing, eating, driving or using my cellphone – all with my feet. Yet, as I venture out into the world, I constantly attract a heap of negative attention wherever I go.
People have all sorts of questions as to how I accomplish tasks with my feet. Some will say that I am gross or weird right to my face. Others will try to sneakily take a photo of me on their phone as I eat at a restaurant or pay for groceries at the store.
This is not an uncommon experience to anyone with special needs. People in wheelchairs are all too familiar with the stares they elicit as they go from aisle to aisle at their local Walmart. There are those with special needs who have loud, unexpected vocalizations that are met with shocked expressions and distasteful comments. The world does not see or understand the worth of people like us, but again that’s not a new development either.
Four years ago, there was a groundswell from the Democratic Party to ensure that babies with disabilities could be aborted for any reason from conception to birth and even after birth. There are many in our culture who see children with disabilities as an inconvenience and not capable of living a full life. Their logic then leaps to, “Why should a life like that be born anyways?”
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I know that logic all too well. When I was born as an armless baby who was not breathing, the doctor asked my dad, “Do you want us to let him go?” That question wreaked of “Why bother with his armless life?” That was not the last moment of opposition I faced when it came to my disability.
The North Carolina public school system did not want to allow me to attend school outside of special education class because they were convinced I could not keep up with the other students. The state of North Carolina did not want me to take driver’s training because they were convinced I could not be a safe driver while using my feet to drive.
In the wake of the convictions of my delivery room doctor and my local government, I have lived a life that has seen a high school diploma with honors, two bachelor of arts degrees, a marriage of 16 years, two amazing kids and one life that is being lived to the absolute fullest.
My doubters and detractors did everything in their power to rob me of a life well lived – even from the moment of my birth. Abortion minded doctors would have had no issue with snuffing out a life like mine. That is why we must continue to advocate for life in the womb even in a post-Dobbs world
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There is a popular phrase in the pro-life world that declares that “every life has value from the womb to the tomb.” The way we vote goes a long way in ensuring that life is protected in both the womb from abortion and also in the end stages of life from euthanasia. Political actions help to ensure the sanctity of human life at both the beginning and end of life, but that cannot be the sum of what it means to be wholly pro-life.
The pro-life ethic is fully lived out when all people have the opportunity at life while being able to flourish in that life. It is an ethic not too dissimilar to the Founding Fathers when they sought for all men to have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
What we see in Night to Shine is the active work of living out the “to” of the pro-life ethic in the womb to tomb concept. Where the world casts doubt on the value of special needs lives, Night to Shine actively shows people with special needs that they are loved by God, their parents and so many others who see the preciousness of their lives. In a world that seeks to take so much from those with special needs, there is a desperate need for us to speak value and love over their lives.
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Night to Shine gets it right on so many levels. These people with special needs are just that – incredibly special in both the eyes of God and in our eyes. They need to hear that value and love proclaimed over them because they do not receive that sort of encouragement from the watching world. They need to feel safe and comfortable as they venture outside their homes on a night like this, but also on any other night of the week. We have to make strides as a culture so that this can be more than just one night for people with special needs to feel valuable and loved.
We have an amazing opportunity to defend and love these lives. We have a chance to watch these amazing people shine. Take any chance you have to give a person with special needs a night – or even a passing moment – to shine.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM DANIEL RITCHIE
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