The most joy-filled people I saw during the Super Bowl were in a Microsoft commercial titled When Everybody Plays We All Win. We were introduced to six kids who love to play video games with their friends. Each of these beautiful kids has a physical limitation that makes using standard video-game controllers quite difficult.
One says, “When I am playing with a regular controller, there are some things that don’t work for me.” Another bravely says, “I never thought it was unfair. I just thought this is the way it is and it’s not going to change.”
But an adaptive controller brought change! The adaptive controller allows these kids to play video games with skill just like their friends. Ten functional fingers are no longer required. Now these kids can focus on their friends and the action on screen. “I don’t even have to look at the controller!” said one happy girl.
The joy I had watching these kids is in stark contrast to the shock and sadness I felt reading that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist of all things, would publicly support legislation allowing not only for abortion right up to the moment of birth, but also for babies to be left to die after birth. These are his words:
When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians—more than one physician, by the way—and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
After saying these words in an interview, Governor Northam would later explain that his comments were taken somewhat out of context. He did not mean that any baby might be left to die; only those with Down Syndrome or some deformity might be left to die, and only after consultation between the mother and physicians. Only those with deformities—perhaps like the joyful kids in the Microsoft commercial?
We hear so much about the need to be inclusive. Yet some political leaders do not want to promise inclusion to the most innocent among us. The fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be denied to those who are deemed to be lacking perfection. Some will not get to play.
At Christianitytoday.com I recently read More Than Material Minds by Dr. Michael Egnor, a neuroscientist. Near the beginning of the article were these lines:
Katie looked like a normal newborn, but she had little chance at a normal life. She had a fraternal-twin sister in the incubator next to her. But Katie only had a third of the brain that her sister had. I explained all of this to her family, trying to keep alive a flicker of hope for their daughter. I cared for Katie as she grew up. At every stage of Katie’s life so far, she has excelled. She sat and talked and walked earlier than her sister. She’s made the honor roll. She will soon graduate high school. I’ve had other patients whose brains fell far short of their minds. Maria had only two-thirds of a brain. … She just finished her master’s degree in English literature, and is a published musician. Jesse was born with a head shaped like a football and half-full of water—doctors told his mother to let him die at birth. She disobeyed. He is a normal happy middle-schooler, loves sports, and wears his hair long.
Thankfully, Dr. Engor is one of many physicians who still take seriously the Hippocratic Oath, and these children were given their chance at life. He notes that not all stories like these include such startling outcomes, but he never suggests, nor should we, that giving each child the chance to live his or her story should be in question.
Watch the extended version of the Microsoft commercial. It is well worth two minutes of your time. See and hear the joy of these kids who say things like “whenever I play I feel happy,” and describe “the fun that you have when you are connecting with your friends.” One of the boys sums up the situation well, “No matter how your body is, or how fast you are, you can play! And that’s a great thing to have in this world.”
May it be that every child gets a chance to play.
–Dr. Joseph J. Horton is professor of psychology at Grove City College and the Working Group Coordinator for Marriage and Family with The Center for Vision & Values. He is also a researcher on Positive Youth Development.