A while back, a young person told me, “I don’t want to have children. Why should I bring another human being into this horrible world?”
I sat back in my chair, not knowing how to answer. There really is no answer. Many people choose not to have children and those reasons are often very valid. Sometimes they are not. But it’s not my role to judge people. So, I did the only thing I know how to do. Tell a story.
“When I was twenty-five,” I said. “I ran a group home for developmentally disabled adults. Isaac, one of my residents, was about fifty years old and had Down Syndrome…
“That’s exactly what I’m afraid off,” the person said, cutting me off. “Having a child who’ll struggle all their life.”
“True,” I said. “Such children face challenges. But then I met Isaac’s parents. They were Polish Jews. They and their children were separated by the Nazis and sent off to the death camps. All their children died in the gas chamber. Somehow the couple survived and were reunited in a refugee camp. There they conceived another child – Isaac.
“And he had Down Syndrome?” the young person exclaimed. “How cruel.”
“Isaac’s parents were very old by the time I worked in the home,” I continued. “They had cared for him until they couldn’t and moved to Israel to live out the rest of their days. But they visited him once or twice a year, telephoned him all the time and made sure he was well taken care of.”
The young person stared at the floor, angrily.
“I will never forget when Isaac’s parents came to visit him,” I said. “The love they showered on him. The joy their child brought them. But the thing I remember most was, when Isaac’s father was hugging him, I saw the identification number the Nazis tattooed on his arm.”
The young person stayed silent.
“I cannot imagine what Isaac’s parents went through,” I said, softly. “But it’s probably accurate to say they saw the worst that mankind is capable of. And yet, they had another child and loved him intensely.”
The young person said nothing.
“That’s the only answer I have,” I said.
The young person got up and left without saying a word.
I will never know if I did the right thing telling that story. I will never know if my words helped or hurt. But then again, the truth is the truth. Let the chips fall where they may.