Lessons Learned at a Chocolate Factory

This weekend, I had the pleasure of celebrating my Uncle Walter’s 55th Birthday.  For many people, birthdays are a big deal.  This is especially true for my uncle!  For well over a decade, he has battled polycystic kidney disease and through the help of dialysis, his kidneys remain minimally functioning at low 4%.  It’s also increasingly more apparent that the disease is taking a toll on his frail body.  The other part of his story – he will never be considered for a kidney transplant because he is mentally disabled.  So this weekend, we decided to celebrate his birthday in style, with a visit to Hershey, PA and a tour of the chocolate factory.

Society often tells us that persons with disabilities are burdensome or are simply not worth it.  Many argue that persons with disabilities do not have much to offer society – and somehow believe that our worth as a person is somehow linked to what we can contribute or give back.  Unfortunately, society more often than not, fails to recognize the inherent dignity of the sick and disabled.  And perhaps even more alarming, society fails to recognize all the ways persons with disabilities enrich and bless our lives.  As a result, we see the growing trend of prenatal diagnosis and selective abortions of those babies likely to be born with disabilities.  A common explanation – the disruption to families caused by the birth of a child with a disability.  Yes, it’s true.  Living with persons with disabilities is often challenging, and honestly sometimes even frustrating.  But without a doubt, I would never ever trade those challenges for the many lessons I’ve learned and blessings I’ve received.

My uncle has taught me that all life is sacred, that God has willed each of us into being, and we all have a place in His family.  He’s taught me how to be patient. He’s taught me how to trust with an innocent child-like faith…although I’m still trying to learn that lesson. And this weekend, walking through the chocolate factory, his presence reminded me about the freedom found in the simplicity of things.  As we slowly walked through the tour, many other families would pass us by, displaying in their faces a somewhat hurried rush.   Looking ahead to what was next.  Nope, not my uncle.  He slowed us down – and what a gift that was!  It gave my family the opportunity to soak everything in and enjoy the time to the fullest!  It gave us an opportunity to cherish even the littlest of things. Or maybe even more simply put, he helped us open our eyes to the many gifts God had put before us.

On the drive back to DC, I found myself thanking God for yet another great lesson.  Sure my uncle may not be able to “give back” to society.  But without even knowing it, Walter teaches me some of life’s great lessons.

7 Replies to “Lessons Learned at a Chocolate Factory”

  1. Persons with dissabilities are still persons. They have the right to live, to love and be loved. Thank you for your generosity!

  2. Hi Sarah, it’s really ironic that I would come upon your wonderful and exciting trip to Hershey Park with your uncle. I went there last year with my two nieces, and boy, was it so much different there, and yes I found that most people were in a rush. It is also ironic that you speak of a family member with a disability. I’m just getting home from visiting one of my favorite aunts who is slowly but surely drifting with Alzheimer disease. There is something profound in spending time with her. Some moments she seems fine and talking, but when asking a question to her she appears not to understand you so she just smiles at you! She is very religious and was very active in the church. My uncle overslept yesterday and they missed church this Sunday. She has been ready to get to church for the last 24 hours. When staring in her eyes you can see calmness about her then other times you see fear and she just instantly begin saying the Lord’s Prayer. She’s 79 and my uncle who is taking care of her right now is over 80. He finds pleasure in taking care of her. He has a very open mind about his wife’s condition and knows that at some point he will need help. I have never been around a person who was so overwhelm just to see me! and not sure who I am. It is those people who we think of the least, that God infuses to us through them a “good habits” of faith, hope and charity

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. Your uncle sounds like a wonderful person.

  4. What a beautiful story about a wonderful man. Three years ago I had the great honor of donating a kidney to a friend… Your uncle deserves this gift of life as much as an other of God’s precious creations. Thank you for reminding us all to slow down and enjoy our creator’s many blessings.

  5. Thank you for sharing.
    I think he is “giving back” to the society in his own way. The fact that you feel that you learn a lot through him is his contribution, I believe.

  6. My father had PKD and like your Uncle he was told he was not a candiate to be put on donor list. So after a long battle of diaysis he passed away from the tole it took on his body. It is sad. I would not want to be the one who has to tell a family your family member can’t live because they do not meet the standards they have set. I think everyone should have a choose to live if there is a way. After 10 long year of lots of pain, and suffering he passed away. I pray things change and your uncle gets that transplant he needs.

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