My life changed forever when I met the doctor in the hospital waiting room, when he came out to tell me the good news: "You're the father of a beautiful baby girl."
Strangely, there was no joy in his face, so I asked, "How are mom and baby doing?"
He replied hesitantly, "Well, Pauline is fine."
Then he looked down with a pained expression, and I instantly knew my world was changing.
As we later learned, after lots of doctor visits and diagnoses, our Laura was born with mental retardation and other medical problems.
Yet the story of our little family is not a tragedy, not by a long shot, due to the always mixed nature of life and the principle mentioned above. As it would take Pauline and me painful years to appreciate, it's not what happens to you that determines your happiness and success in life, but how you respond.
After all, you can't always control what happens to you. But you can always control how you respond, especially if you remember: Every adversity carries within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.
You might ask, "What possible benefit could arise from your daughter being born with mental retardation? Or from a war, for that matter? Or a plague? Or an earthquake?"
Let me speak only from my own experience.
Our daughter, despite her disabilities, quickly became and remains the light of our lives.
What she lacks in brains she makes up in heart.
She has taught us more about how to love and care for others than any religious sermon, Indian guru, new age course or book ever could.
She has brought into our lives a caring and dedicated network of teachers and friends we would have never met otherwise.
She has opened our hearts and turned us into benefactors for children's causes.
She has taught us how to be brave.
Can you imagine the bravery it takes to look different, attract attention just by walking down the street or through a mall, speak unintelligibly to most people's ears, encounter so much frustration in attempting simple tasks like tying a shoe or buttoning a blouse, never fit in with the social activities of your peers while growing up, not belong in their classes at school, not understand the jokes everyone laughs at and, at times, be laughed at yourself by ignorant people or other children who see only what's different about you and not what's human and tender?
Can you imagine the bravery it takes to experience all that ... yet still go through life with a smile on your face, acceptance in your heart and a bubbly spirit of joy for those who share your life?
That's just the beginning of what Laura has taught us.
Copyright © 2004 Gary Bencivenga