Beautifully, Wonderfully Made

My son and daughter-in-law had a surprise for us this morning. They had their first baby early today. Of course the fact that they were having a baby wasn’t a surprise, that was pretty obvious to anyone, but the fact that it came today, about a month early, was a great surprise. They both had to adjust their lives to fit the new circumstances, thinking they still had several weeks to prepare. I haven’t gotten to hold her yet, as they live in another state, but I have seen pictures. She is a beautiful, fully formed, perfect little human being, a real person.

On the other end of things, I am caring for my wife, who is afflicted with advanced fronto-temporal dementia, a progressive dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease, which ultimately ends the same way. It has progressed rather rapidly in the last six months or so, and I expect that she will not be here with us next year, though she is not an “old” person. She is being taken long before her time.

When she talks, I generally have no idea what she is talking about, but she still needs to speak and to be heard. I was at the dining room table with my computer the other day, with her ten feet away, and I heard her clearly say “I wish someone would talk to me.” She had a lot on her mind, and we talked for at least a half an hour. Even though I could not decipher almost anything she said, there is still a real person inside there, someone who needs to love and be loved and wanted and cared for. Though the disease it taking its toll, and through all of the difficulties and trials, she is still a real person, a human being.

The creation of new life affords an opportunity to reflect, and what I see is that, at all stages of life, regardless of condition, every human being is a real person, an individual, with his or her own personality, likes and dislikes, talents, abilities, and future. Human life is an amazing thing. Out of billions of people, there are no two who are exactly alike. Even identical twins with the same genetic code have different experiences, injuries, loves, and assumptions about life. They are not the same person. Each human life has an inherent dignity, even if it is not always recognized or honored by some people, even if that person is subject to indignities inflicted by others.

That little newborn baby didn’t become human upon exiting her mother, she wasn’t just a blob of cells moments before birth. Even inside of her mother, she was a fully formed person, a human being, with her own DNA, even the beginnings of her own personality, and her own dignity. I can’t imagine anyone, nurse, medical doctor or otherwise, being callous enough to view that baby human being as worthy of death.

Though everyone has an inherent human dignity, that doesn’t mean that everyone is equally good, equally respectful, equally productive, or equally intelligent. One of the wonders of any society is how so many different people can live out their lives among others who do not care for them, who do not love them, and who do not share their aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses. Two people of widely differing capabilities and interests can work together voluntarily in a way that is mutually satisfying to both parties, many times even when they are separated by thousands of miles.

Human freedom encompasses everyone recognizing the rights of everyone else to their lives, their liberty, and their property, and, in so doing, validating that dignity with which all individuals are so beautifully and wonderfully made.

Dan McLaughlin is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at