Because he was born with Hallerman-Streiff, he has a lot of challenges, as does his family. However, he is a happy guy, surrounded by siblings who love him.
Yesterday, I was hanging out with his family at an event, working with his mom on a project. Now, Sam has a trach, and it needs to be suctioned out several times an hour. It's a pretty simply procedure, and takes literally a few seconds. His mom was busy, so I did it. When she returned from what she was doing, I told her that I'd suctioned him. Her reply was, "Oh, you're on the team now!" I laughed, and said, "That's fine, but it wasn't a big deal."
She turned to me and said, "Yes, it is. Do you know how many people won't even look at him, let alone touch him? The thought of suctioning his trach would just send them right over the edge." She then told me that no one, NO ONE, in her husband's family has ever held Sam.
I just spent a week with some of the most intelligent, well-educated, successful people on the planet. And then I got to spend Saturday with Sam.
The very first night of Acton University, this gathering of smart, gifted, amazing people, Fr. Robert Sirico reminded us that as we were pondering issues of religion, liberty and economics over the next few days, we MUST get this issue of the dignity of each human person right, otherwise, anything we build on a faulty foundation would be faulty. Each and every human is made in the image and likeness of God, and our sense of society must be built on that, or we will fail.
That means my friend Sam is made in the image and likeness of God. If our society fails to recognize that, we fail. If I fail or you fail to recognize that, we fail. My friend Sam, in his disability, has an important task to do: to remind us that God is present among us, in even the most distressing disguises, and that his value and worth is not in what he can do (like write book and say really intelligent things), but in who he is: God's amazing child.