June 2, 2009 1:33 PM
To Claire Howorth - come to the Heartland, meet pro-lifers!
In 1997, when we moved to a rural area in California, we had a little boy in tow that would present a challenge to his new school district, which consisted solely of a small elementary school with 120 students grades K-5. They'd never had a child with special needs before, never seen an IEP.
Yet they made way for Jonny - Down syndrome and all.
No matter their worries, they behaved very professionally and treated Jonny with the respect we should all accord each other. His kindergarten teacher was a woman named Miss Bessie, who'd been teaching kindergarten there for 30 years and was now teaching children of her former students.
She'd never had the modern training and experience that teachers have nowadays. Who knows what she was thinking when Jonny entered her class, so far behind his peers? I only know what she soon realized - the enormously beneficial impact Jonny had on all her students.
And I can share what she wrote after Jonny had completed two years of kindergarten, leaving me to wonder if he repeated because he needed it or she needed it (just kidding, but there was so much love there).
Claire, when you paint such a distorted and destructive portrait of pro-lifers, it only shows that you live your life in narrow boundaries which have never been challenged. Your ability to reason has suffered from the lack of persepctive, and you have become guilty of the same things you accuse others of.
I want to affirm my challenge: to get outside the confines of your carefully-constructed circle of acquaintance - who may all think you did a fabulous job with Terror in the Heartland - and come out to the Heartland and meet the pro-lifers you equate with terrorists. Interview some of us. Eat dinner with us. Talk to us. Listen to us.
If you consider yourself a journalist, why not? I'm currently reading a book
by a 19-year-old Brown student who - in an effort to break past the stereotypes of people who didn't think like him - enrolled at Liberty University for a semester. Do you still have that kind of curiosity - the curiosity that fuels true writers?
Why not ask Vanity Fair to pony up some money for you to take a tour? I already have readers signing up to invite you to their homes. And my readers are very sincere and authentic - it might be a refreshing change of pace for you - just as it was for Kevin Roose to get outside his insulated world where he had been free to pass judgment without the slightest idea what he was passing judgment on.
But back to Jonny. Many babies like Jonny died at Dr. Tiller's hands. They didn't need to. Their mothers could have been encouraged to see that people with Down syndrome have something to offer society. I wish Dr. Tiller had seen that, just as I wish that the man who killed Dr. Tiller had seen that only God should have the power over life and death.
I hope you will read what Miss Bessie wrote about Jonny. Funny, Jonny was my 8th child, but this was the first letter I ever received from a teacher thanking me for one of my children. And another funny thing, it wasn't the last.
You can also find some wonderful pictures of Jonny by clicking the album below:
Sometimes it's nice to start the day out with a good cry! Thank you so much for sharing that letter with us. What a wonderful testimony (and what a wonderful teacher!).
Posted by: Sue | June 2, 2009 6:49 PM
You can tell from that she was a great teacher. Love her handwriting.
Our son has been so fortunate to have a caring, appreciative teacher this year. It's a blessing.
Posted by: Julana | June 2, 2009 7:57 PM
I'm in tears! Thank you for sharing such a personal and special letter from Miss Bessie. Liberty Elementary was indeed a special place, wasn't it? Skyler too needed an IEP. I didn't realize Jonny had "paved the way!" I didn't think about it before.....but your family went from Liberty Elementary to Liberty University!
Posted by: Kim O | June 2, 2009 8:22 PM
wow.......what a special teacher. i wish my little man had had the ability to have had a teacher like bessie. barbara, thanks for always writing so well, so articulately and so very heartfelt.
God bless you,
Posted by: julie | June 2, 2009 8:52 PM
Thank you for posting that letter! We just received a similar one from our son's teacher (he just finished kindergarten and is 6 and has autism). I could not stop crying. These children are so beautiful and priceless! I applaud your challenge to Claire Howorth. Some people just have not had the opportunity to see the beauty of life.
Posted by: Sara | June 2, 2009 10:31 PM
What a fantastic post to start the day with! I love that picture of him! Makes me want to just give him a big hug! thanks for sharing Barbara!
Kristy in Germany
Posted by: kristy in Germany | June 3, 2009 4:05 AM