Many people don’t get the opportunity to come face-to-face with a person who has a disability. Rarer still is getting an honest view of how a person feels about their disability. But millions caught a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary individual living with a disability after actor Ashton Kutcher shared the following video with 18 million of his followers on social media.
Cashel Gardner is a 17-year-old living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which, for Cashel, means that he cannot move, breathe, talk, or eat on his own. But he made this video to show that his life is fulfilling and valuable – and that everyone matters.
Cashel describes himself as a computer expert and web designer, an avid gamer and someone who has many friends, an inspirational writer and motivational speaker. Nowhere does he describe himself as someone who is “suffering” or wishes that he were not alive. Though Cashel has a severe disability, he says that he does not see that as a bad thing – as he says, “SMA is just another part of who I am, and without every piece of my puzzle, I would be incomplete.”
If only more people would hear Cashel’s words.
Some view disability negatively, or as something to be avoided. Babies with a prenatal diagnosis of any form of disability, no matter how minor, are routinely aborted. And why? Because their parents believe they will be suffering and that their lives will not have value. Children and adults with disabilities are often targeted for euthanasia because their parents assume their lives are not worth living. Some may have a mindset that if someone’s life is not (or potentially will not be “perfect”), then the more merciful option is to kill them. Thus, perfection is transformed into a false idol when, in fact, perfection doesn’t really exist.
Perhaps if more people spoke to individuals like Cashel and heard firsthand that these are people who love life, love themselves, and are happy to be alive, their attitudes would change. Cashel is right. Everyone does matter, regardless of disability. Everyone matters. Every life matters.