Who inspires you? Why? When you ask people that question, you always get different answers for “who,” but there’s a common answer for “why” — people who inspire us face some kind of obstacle or suffering, they face a hardship or challenge, and what makes them stand out is that they keep going, they don’t give up, they persevere. Inspiring people do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.
Today (thanks to a calendar mistake I made that left me several hours of extra driving!), I re-listened to an old episode of This American Life, #317 Unconditional Love, and was inspired anew by the stories of two families.
Heidi and Rick Solomon inspire me. They adopted their son Daniel, who was raised in terrible circumstances in a Romanian orphanage, unable to feel attachments to anyone. At one point, Alix Spiegel asks Heidi:
Alix Spiegel: Did you feel like Daniel was homicidal at any point?
Heidi Solomon: Well, I was told he was homicidal.
Alix Spiegel: How do you love somebody who is homicidal?
Heidi Solomon: Well, because he was my son. I mean, you have to love him or else there’s no way out of it. It’s like, if you’re lost, you want to keep moving forward to get to the end place. I don’t think I ever questioned my love.
Dave and Karen Royko inspire me. Dave tells the story about their autistic son, Ben, and the great challenges they face in caring for him, and the difficult decisions they have to make about his care and well-being. We often don’t get to control the circumstances we’re faced with, but we do control how we can respond to that. Their opening comments describe that response quite honestly (if irreverently):
Dave Royko: People say all kinds of things to me and my wife as parents of an autistic son, and they mean well.
Karen Royko: People would sometimes say to me, in public, or in therapy waiting rooms where there’s a lot of interaction with parents and they would say, you’re a saint. And I would just think, well… What am I supposed to do, beat the [BLEEP] out of him? What else would you do? Well, we have to take a lot of antidepressants. That helps.
Dave Royko: God bless medication. People would often say, I couldn’t do what you’re doing. I know when people would say that, I mean, it’s really a compliment. But it would sometimes though, feel like, yes, you would. Unless you’re really a [BLEEP] person and not cut out to be a parent, you would be doing the same thing. The only difference is, we have to do it. It always felt like a little whiff of this crap, like God never gives you more than you can handle.
Karen Royko: You just want to kick those people in the teeth don’t you?
It sounds less harsh when you begin to understand the challenges of their day-to-day life. Heidi and Rick loved their adopted son unconditionally, even when he was homicidal. Dave and Karen love their autistic son Ben unconditionally, even when life seemed almost impossible in caring for him. You love your kids because of who they are, no matter what they do, and no matter the challenges and hardship you may face — any loving parent would do the same thing in that situation, even if you don’t realize it until you get there. The Solomon’s and the Royko’s inspire me, because they faced those situations, and they faced those hardships, and they persevered — they did the right thing, they lived out an unconditional love, even when it was a very hard thing to do.
I recently had a silly little scare that caused me to seriously contemplate whether or not I’d die young for a few minutes (it was just beet juice, long story). I was surprising comfortable with the hypothetical thought of dying, except that I felt terrible about the thought of leaving my wife. But it was only thinking about my kids that brought tears to my eyes. It was one of those cliché moments where you can’t describe in words the unique love and duty that you experience as a parent.
I have no idea if the Solomon’s or the Royko’s are pro-life. But these kind of difficult life circumstances — the prospect of a troubled childhood, the challenges of disability — are often circumstances in which people say abortion (or sometimes even infanticide/euthanasia) is justified. Listen to these two stories of inspiring families who rose to the challenge of facing difficult circumstances, and showed unconditional love even when it was a very hard thing to do — and couldn’t imagine responding in any other way. This is the kind of love we are called to live, even in the face of the most difficult life circumstances.