Yesterday, one of the newspapers in my area printed an article too beautiful not to share. Titled “What is the Value of Human Life? Incalculable,” the piece, written by Pocono Record reporter Howard Frank, tells the story of 65-year-young Linda Albertson, who “was born legally blind and with intellectual disabilities.”
Rather than assume her life of little value, however, her parents “wanted to make her life meaningful.”
Parents like Linda’s led to the creation of Burnley in 1964. Burnley is a vocational rehabilitation facility that provides training and employment, all focused on giving individuals with disabilities opportunities for a meaningful, purposeful life.
Linda was among the original employees in 1965, when the workshop received its first major contract, to solder parts of a tiny amplifier for the Army.
Nearly 50 years later, Linda continues to work at Burnley, having overcome difficulties and discouragement to become “the workshop’s most skilled worker.”
And with that came confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Qualities we all, disabled or not, strive to achieve. For Linda, having self-confidence brought her out and helped her to make friends. That’s one of the things that Burnley does. It doesn’t just give people jobs. It exists because it believes in a person’s potential.
This is not just a “feel-good” story intended to make us applaud and then carry on with our lives. It’s a very real testament to the value of every life and to the fact that, regardless of how society may “rank” us (and itself), we all crave the same things. We all want to feel loved and needed. We all want to feel that our lives have meaning.
I think of my own family. For years, my grandmother worked with those considered “developmentally disabled.” As a child, I remember her sharing how these precious people packaged sponges. Some would argue that these men and women should have been discarded. But they were loved; they were needed, and their lives had meaning.
I think of my mom’s cousin, who had severe CP. Although requiring assistance to live, she learned to type addresses on envelopes, and she did this to the fullest of her potential. Her passing left a hole in our lives. She was loved; she was needed, and her life had meaning.
To quantify a life’s value based on subjective constructions of worth is tragic. My mom’s cousin, the men and women my grandmother worked with, Linda Albertson. Each a life of immeasurable value. Each wanting to love, be loved, and find meaning.
Indeed, isn’t this what we all want?
Mr. Frank is right: the value of life is incalculable.