Humans of New York (HONY) has taken on a new photography project — the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi — and I’m loving every bit of it.

Special Olympics website defines their mission as such:

Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

HONY has captured athletes from a wide variety of countries, showcasing that disability doesn’t discriminate by geography — and what a powerful way to bring the international community of those special people together for this event.

I’ll never forget when I was in the Middle East for a trip several years ago and I saw a little girl with Down Syndrome with her class. It occurred to me for the first time how universal this is — and how likely it is that some other countries (HONY featured a couple of girls from Saudi Arabia, for example) may not be as accepting as we are of those with differences in the United States.

The spirit of the Special Olympics celebrates these differences by offering people an opportunity to find community with others who understand what it’s like to live in the world being different. They also have a chance to build their natural interests, skills and friendships.

It also gives friends, family and even strangers the opportunity to showcase true humanity, permeating the world around them and no doubt creating exponential goodness that has no ceiling. That’s what I thought when I saw this post:

As I skimmed the site yesterday, the Pandora station I was listening to played the Stephen Curtis Chapman song, “Fingerprints of God.” It was the perfect moment and reminder that every single human being is made in the image of God, perfectly, just the way they are. The lyrics are worth writing:

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God
Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God’s hand
And perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what he’s been creating
Since the first beat of your heart
Is a living breathing priceless work of art

It also reminded me that something like 80%+ of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted in the U.S. I can certainly empathize with the fear that would come that kind fo a diagnosis, but no diagnosis should be a death sentence if it doesn’t have to be.

I know a couple of people with intellectual disabilities and they do contribute beautifully to the world in the way they were meant to. Why is there a mission to eradicate this planet of people who aren’t “perfect”? (Obviously, none of us are!)

In Iceland, nearly 100% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted — and the U.S. honestly isn’t far behind. Listen for just a moment to his man:

It’s not just Down Syndrome, of course. Babies diagnosed with things like Spina Bifida, Cystic Fibrosis, and Fragile X syndrome, among other physical & mental problems are also aborted on the regular. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities don’t have any symptoms until after birth, so thankfully their lives are spared.

I worry for the day with science develops to the point that things like Autism could potentially be caught in a prenatal test. I already am uncomfortable with where things are an personally, chose only to receive prenatal testing so that if something was abnormal, I could mentally prepare myself for what might come in the future.

Here’s another thing I loved from SO this week:

I’m know the HONY photographer is not trying to make any statements about abortion. And I know that plenty of people who are pro-choice celebrate these lives right along with me & fans of the page.

But I see it as an opportunity to remind everyone that these lives are valuable just as they are. It’s a chance for someone facing the scariest moment of their lives when they receive an abnormal prenatal test, to see that there is joy, opportunity, fulfillment and incredible beauty in life that doesn’t seem ideal.

Thanks to HONY for showcasing these incredible athletes and the strength they show the world with their resilience.

P.S.: Listen to this podcast interview with Kristin Hughes Srour, Director of Global Community Health Programs at Special Olympics International (and close friend of my sister):…/episode-167-kristin-srour/

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