Updated: May 9, 2020
Every Christmas, I re-read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. After my daughter, Regina, was born, the whole story took on a new meaning to me. You see, Regina was born with a severe heart defect and Down syndrome. She had open heart surgery at four months old to repair her heart, and she has a long road of therapies and specialists ahead of her. Suddenly after her birth, the characters of Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Tim stood out in sharp relief to me.
I know now how it is to be the anxious mother of a disabled child. I know how it feels to not be sure how much time on this Earth your child will have. I know how it is to have a society that believes that children like yours are "surplus population." And Mrs. Cratchit is a little bit of a spitfire, as all of us moms of children with special needs have needed to be at one time or another while advocating for our children.
"The Founder of the Feast indeed!" cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it." -A Christmas Carol
Tiny Tim himself is an interesting character study for special needs families as well. My favorite quote of his is, of course:
"[Tiny Tim] told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see." -A Christmas Carol
"It might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see." I know that we are supposed to see Christ within everyone, but it is easiest for me to see Christ within my Regina. And looking at her, most people might be reminded that Our Blessed Lord when He walked the Earth would heal people just like her. She could not walk for a very long time and she still cannot speak. But in having her as a part of our family, I discovered something. She wasn't the one in the most desperate need of healing. I was. I was blind to God's Word, deaf to His call, crippled and lame in sin. Once I had Regina, everything changed. I saw her suffer patiently. I saw her gentleness and goodness. I saw all of the erroneous assumptions everyone (including me) made about people with Down syndrome. And I saw how uninhibited my other children were in their love for her. So this Christmas season, I will meditate on the other miracles that we owe to Jesus's Nativity. Namely, the miracles that He works in people's souls. "Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk?" Matthew 9:5. The answer is, of course, that it is much easier for Him to heal our physical maladies. Healing our souls is where the real work begins. And no one helps me open my heart up to welcome the Baby Jesus better than my very own Tiny Tim. And may God bless us, every one.
Sylvia Bass is a Cuban Catholic wife and mama to five girls and one baby boy. She hung up her attorney spurs in exchange for the domestic life. She is the proud mama of a child with Down syndrome. You can read more of her writing at Tales From the Mommy Trenches.