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Matt KaneJuly 03, 2013

The grandest and most spectacular acts of social justice often seem to occur in foreign lands and involve the improvement and preservation of thousands of lives, but the most meaningful act of social justice in my own life occurred much closer to home. It succeeded in saving the life of only one.

Some 17 years ago my parents were confronted by a physician who wanted to discuss the fate of a soon-to-be-newborn baby. It had recently been discovered that this baby would be born with Down syndrome, and the physician assured my parents that there was still time to abort. Today it is estimated that 60 percent to 90 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, but for my parents this was never an option. My younger brother Joey was born on Aug. 9, 1995.

Reflecting on this act of social justice invokes a reflection on the importance of not only my brother’s life, but of the right to life itself. When my parents chose life for Joey, they knew that many trials and challenges lay ahead, but they were able to embrace the possibility of difficulty and accept whatever God had in store for them. They could not have foreseen the immense love and joy Joey’s presence would create in our family and our community in the coming years. Living and growing up with Joey has given me a rare perspective on the value of life. Over the years I have watched him sculpt the very foundation of our family into one of profound patience and tolerance, and he continues to influence the way I interact with others inside and outside the family. He is a testament to the effects of social justice, and I cannot imagine the void that would be left in my own life if my parents had not recognized the value of Joey’s.

The invariable aspects of human-kind define who we are as a people, but the unique and subtle differences by which we are individually defined make us who we truly are. As I reflect on how much Joey has changed the way I see the world, it saddens me to think of all those whose differences not only cost them their lives, but also the opportunity to change the lives of others. Without diversity our world would be stagnant and our thoughts without purpose, for it is often through our differences that we are able to enrich the lives of those around us. While it is true that my parents’ act of social justice saved the life of only one person, it served to transform the lives of countless people in my community, whose world would be a little less bright, less full, were it not for Joey.

Read Joey Kane's reflection on life with Down syndrome, here. "Generation Faith" is a new feature that offers high school and college students a space to reflect on the joys and challenges that come with living out one's faith in the midst of real life. Submissions should be sent to articles@americamagazine.org with the subject line "Generation Faith."

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