Have you heard the news? There is a strange phenomenon occurring in Iceland. Scientists, psychiatrists and behaviorists from all over the world are traveling to the country to observe, collect data and form their opinion on what is causing the alarming changes.
To date, data has proved challenging to collect and organize, as the phenomenon has permeated all areas of human behavior. Looking at what is currently known, the following observations have been reported:
- A spike in personal pride in one’s work with a correlating attitude of superiority and decrease in efforts to help one’s neighbor/co-worker/classmate meet the same level of achievement
- An increase in the expectation that all citizens should contribute to their communities in a way that is quantifiable; the higher the level of output, the better
- A significant decrease in patience toward anyone that can’t meet expectations with the number of individuals who are able to meet them becoming smaller every day
- A lack of compassion, understanding and acceptance for citizens who struggle to perform at a certain level
Personal, one-on-one interviews with a randomly selected group of individuals show the following:
- significant decrease in joy
- Feelings of becoming easily frustrated and impatient with those who differ from them and their abilities
- a deep and unfulfilled yearning for a connection to something bigger than themselves
For the past several years, researchers have tried to make sense of it all and time and again, fall short of identifying the underlying cause to these negative, often debilitating effects on human behavior. One behaviorist in particular devoted years of his life to studying the abnormalities, traveling back and forth between Iceland and the US, his own temperament often adapting, although unknowingly, to his change in location. It wasn’t until one quiet morning at his favorite coffee shop in Iceland when reading the morning’s headlines that it all became crystal clear. The headline read, “Down Syndrome nearly eradicated; close to 100% of women who receive a positive test for Down Syndrome terminate their pregnancy.”
“Of course”, he thought, questioning why the most obvious answers always prove to be the most elusive. He had to laugh at the audacity of the world’s most brilliant minds coming together to study what is one of the oldest and most destructive downfalls of mankind-that of judgement-the thought that one individual has the right to decide the worth of another. It’s like a deadly mold, eating away at the very fabric of human character until one is left with the feeling that choosing who gets to be treated with respect, who deserves a chance at survival and who gets to live are all decisions owed to us. “When will we learn?”, he said out loud as he finished his coffee and headed back to his hotel to pack his things and call his wife and daughter to tell them he’s coming home. All of a sudden, he was overcome with excitement to hold his sweet girl, to wrap her, extra chromosome and all, into his arms and hold on tight. He knows she will teach him much and hopes his larger community and world will learn a lesson that continually gets buried beneath human fear, weakness and a gross misrepresentation of what our role as God’s children really is.
Upon boarding the plane, he feels a genuine sense of sadness and sympathy for the residents of Iceland, knowing all that they are missing in not welcoming these special souls into their lives. He looks down at his phone and is struck with the beautiful image of his daughter staring back at him. He can’t wait to get home and wrap her in the love she so deserves.
Author’s Note: As the reader has probably discerned, 98% of this post is not based on any factual information. The 2% that is unfortunately true is the statement that, in the country of Iceland, “Down Syndrome has basically been eradicated, as nearly 100% of women who receive a positive test for Down Syndrome terminate their pregnancy.” While I took significant literary liberty with this post, I did so with very personal, non-fictional information and experience of the incredible blessing it is to share my life with someone who has Down Syndrome.
The thought of living in a society that doesn’t see the value, potential, worthiness and joy of these amazing individuals is one that I simply can’t understand. While I’m aware that my stance on the subject may be met with criticism, I don’t apologize for my belief that every life is worthy–not by my judgement but by the simple fact that every person is made in the image and in the likeness of God. I do apologize if the words I have written are interpreted to mean that I don’t understand the level of fear and uncertainty that can envelope the heart of a couple learning their child will face significant challenges in their life. I felt that fear when my husband and I decided to adopt our daughter and love this little girl with everything that we are and continue to feel it on a daily basis as I watch her struggle to find her way.
I also don’t pretend that the decisions of those in Iceland are by any means easy or made without devastating sadness. In the end, what has haunted me since first reading this report is what those mothers and fathers in Iceland will never get to experience. In accepting the lie that they are told about the life they can expect their children to live, they are robbed of the pure, boundless love that fills my heart every time I embrace my daughter. They will miss the awe I feel in watching her persevere time and again against all odds and reach goals I never thought she would reach. They will never know that their children have more to teach them than they could ever repay. And their understanding of love in general will be forever marred, thinking that love is owed only to those that fit a certain mold.
As science continues to develop and testing during pregnancy becomes ever more specific, one is left to wonder what group of individuals will be eradicated next. At what point does it end? How far will we let things go before we understand our world, our communities, will not be the same if we continue on this path? At what point do we decide to cherish all life and let God sprinkle His beauty on this earth through individuals of all abilities, talents and gifts?