By Danny Minton
It was Thanksgiving week 1973; I had just left the principal’s office and a discussion on a class problem when the school receptionist told me I had a call waiting. When I picked up the phone, it was my wife, Kathy, and she was obviously upset and in tears. I informed the principal that I had to leave and asked him to take my next Bible class.
I met Kathy in front of the school, and we drove down the street from ACU and pulled over to the side of the road. Having come from the doctor, she shared with me that the doctor said that our son, Scottie, was severely brain damaged. We were in the final month of a six–month waiting period before his adoption was finalized. The doctor suggested due to the severity of his problem that we give him back to the adoption agency.
What came next was a decision that two young people in their early 20s should never have to make. Should we give our son up for a child that was normal, or should we keep him? Making this decision would be one that would change the lives of a lot of people: ours, Scottie’s, our future children, our parents, future employers, and friends. Believe it or not, the decision was a “no–brainer” for us. If he was our own natural child could we give him up? Of course not! So, we chose to keep him. After all, maybe it wasn’t God giving him to us, but, God gave us to him.
The decision would be met in diverse ways by different people over the years. A preacher I worked with early on told me we needed to put him in a state facility or it would ruin our marriage. Some told us it was detrimental for any of our other children to keep him. A neighbor refused to talk to us about him because it “made her feel bad.” We have endured comments behind our backs about being better off without him. We have endured stares and mistreatment by people who have not understood, many of who are good “Christian” people, meaning well.
Some people can’t understand how we can do it. Even doctors are amazed that we have lasted so long. I do not doubt that if we could go back and relive that moment in 1973 again, that the decision would be the same, even knowing the fallout that would come down the line. What makes it rewarding to care for someone who is physically 40 years old, but only one year old mentally? He will never say “I love you,” he will never give us a hug or say, “thank you for helping me.” We will continue to change him, dress him, feed him and monitor him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will do it with love and devotion.
Why? We know that without us he probably would not have been taken in by anyone, but spent whatever life he had in an institution. Just knowing and caring for someone who is sweet and innocent can fill you with warmth. Sure, he will never give back any of the love we give him, but when he laughs at a movie on television or when he smiles when you sing to him or just look at him, then you know that there is a human being there that needs and appreciates you with something that they could not express with words. We know that by caring for him, we have given him his physical needs and the love of parents he may have never had. In return, Scottie has given us the gift of being better people more attuned to not only his needs but those of others around us.
Note: Scottie passed away in February 2014, two months after I wrote this. Life is different, but we learned and grew in faith more in those years than most people do in a lifetime. Take time to enjoy those around you, hug them and tell them you love them.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ