Plinko and Life

My kids are coming off their Spring Break and it got me to thinking about the wonderful childhood memories I have from when I was out of school. Those days were glorious. I’d wake up, watch back-to-back episodes of ‘Family Ties’, and my mom would make me her world famous (i.e. the world inside my head) egg and cheese sandwich (two of them, actually). Then ‘The Price is Right’ would come on and I’d be mesmerized by my mom’s ability to know the price of EVERYTHING!

One of my favorite TPIR games was always Plinko. I would be so consumed by how contestants would stand there and ponder the exact, perfect location of where to drop the chip so that it would land where they wanted it to. Even at an early age, I quickly realized the game of Plinko was simply a metaphor for life itself; random supersedes planning and there are no guarantees in life.

As I was perusing the Internet today, it came to my attention today is World Down Syndrome Day. As a result of my perusing, I came across two blogs, both by mothers with a child with Down Syndrome, both retelling their stories of being pregnant and how they dealt with the idea of having a child with an extra chromosome.

This, again, got me to thinking of when my ex-wife was pregnant with our children. Both times we were asked by her OB if we wanted a test to screen for abnormalities or possible birth defects. Twice we told him, “thanks, but no” as it wouldn’t matter either way. Termination of the pregnancy was never an option, so the screening would simply be a waste of time for all involved.

Both blogs I read today touched on the conversation of terminating a pregnancy where the parents became aware there was an issue with the child. In the first blog, both parents started down the path of having an abortion until something made them change their mind; a decision they would celebrate given the beautiful child they had as a result. In the second blog, the mother was not aware of her child having Down Syndrome. In fact, her pre-natal test had ruled out DS. It didn’t matter either way. For her, too, termination was never an option.

I look back at those days of doctor’s visits and ultrasounds, and it all seems light-years ago. I have two beautiful and healthy children, one eleven years old and the other just several weeks away from turning ten. I can’t imagine a life without them, and their good health is my good fortune. I thank God every day for that blessing that is all too often taken for granted.

Still, I believe my love for them would be no less had they been born with a condition or birth defect. I look at my cousin who deals with struggle after struggle with an autistic child. She and her husband lose sleep on a regular basis, are routinely at either a doctor’s office or hospital, and live their lives with a certain sense of an impending “what’s next?” mentality. Still, they love their son like there’s no tomorrow, and the love they share between themselves is immeasurable. It’s the love you develop only after having sweat and bled with someone else, and I look at my cousin with a world of admiration. I like to think I could be as strong as she, yet I thank the Lord I was not put in the position to find out.

In the end, life, and the events that fill it, is random. It really doesn’t matter where you place that Plinko chip. It’s going to fall where it’s going to fall, and there really is very little we can do to predict or control what happens once we let the chip go.

There are two things, however, we are able to dictate. Faith and love.

Our faith in God and our acceptance of His will determine for us how we experience life. We can either fill our lives with anxiety, despair, and frustration, or we can give ourselves to the mystery that is God’s choosing, knowing that when He selects us for a particular challenge, it is for a purpose and it is for the betterment of a greater good. We may never realize or understand it, still it’s our place to accept it nonetheless.

We also control how we choose to love others. It can be so easy for the parent of a special needs child to lay blame for the situation on their spouse or external circumstances. We can allow adversity to handcuff our heart’s ability to love and, in turn, be loved. Or we can find both strength and comfort in the love of those who surround us and support us. Love is not only an emotion but also a tool. It is up to us to choose if we use it to build or to destroy.

I never thought in looking back at those memories of my early youth a simple game on a television game show would lead to such a deep and thought provoking blog post. Funny how life is random that way.

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