MIKE’S GIFTS TO YOU
In my hometown in Waldron, Indiana, there lived a boy a year or
two younger than me. His name was Mike Wagoner. Mike was the son of
Floyd and Mildred Wagoner and Mike was born with Down’s Syndrome. He
was profoundly retarded and had no capability of speech or communication
except by pointing and making unintelligible sounds. Mike died suddenly
about 40 years ago at about the age of 14. Mike lived around the corner
from me and I saw him often. Mike was a silent mentor and the giver of
many gifts. The gifts Mike gave were not wrapped in wrapping paper nor
tied with bright ribbons. Mike gave gifts that are impossible to wrap.
Mike gave the gifts of God. I am telling you this story about Mike so
you can receive these gifts and then give them away this Christmas.
Did God turn a potentially healthy, normal baby into a person
with Down’s Syndrome? My answer to that question is "NO!".
The power of darkness thought a victory had been won when the darkness
turned Mike into a person with a disability. What God did was something
greater. God turned Mike to a beaming light that glowed and beamed
brightly to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Although
Mike had a profound disability, Mike accomplished more in his short life
than hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, could ever accomplish no
matter how hard they tried.
God gave Mike gifts after the darkness thought the darkness had
won. Mike then gave God’s gifts to everyone around him. This is not to
say that Mike’s parents were not distraught over Mike’s
difficulties, because they were devastated for awhile. However, as Mike
grew out of infancy, Mike’s gifts began to show through. Mike’s
parents began to receive his gifts and soon they were giving his gifts
to others. Then those people passed on these gifts to others. Then those
people passed on those gifts to still others. In fact, Mike is still
giving. You are reading this article today because Mike gave gifts to
me. I am giving them to you, and you (I hope) give them to others.
Even after Mike died at such a young age he kept on giving. Mike’s
parents had the viewing and funeral in a nearby town (St. Paul, IN) and
everyone that went to the viewing was stunned and awed. People were
stunned because even as Mike was in the casket he appeared to be an
angel. Even when the power of darkness tried to do the worst thing in
the world to Mike and his family, God was still giving gifts to Mike and
Mike was still giving to the rest of us.
Because Mike was born with a disability, a school for
developmentally disabled children was started in the early fifties. A
school of this nature was rare in the 1950’s. At that time, persons
with disabilities were kept at home, out of site and out of mind to the
rest of the world.
Because Mike was born with a disability, a sheltered industry
was formed. That non-profit corporation is still in existence and has
served the needs of thousands of individuals since its inception.
These two examples are the visible and tangible results of Mike’s
life, but as dramatic an impact as these two examples are, they cannot
begin to measure up to the intangible gifts Mike gave to the people
around him…gifts which are still being passed on today.
I was born with a facial deformity and as I approached
adulthood, I began to be plagued with a severe disability. However, Mike
had a dramatic impact upon my life when I was a young boy and he is
still influencing my life. Here are some of the gifts Mike gave to me,
which I am giving to you, and which you can give to others. These gifts
always fit and they never have to be returned.
GIFT NO. 1…STRIVE TO BE HUMBLE: Humility has died in so many
places in our world. Everyone wants to assert their rights; everyone
wants what they want when they want it. Arrogance and pride are accepted
as normal traits. Humility is the ability of each of us to accept the
good things God has given us without wanting more. As difficult as life
is for many people, learning to accept the blessings of God enables us
to conquer the psychological and spiritual barriers that separate us
from God and from others.
GIFT NO. 2…STRIVE TO BE ORDINARY: Every day we can see people
who want to stand out and be extraordinary in some way. We can also see
people whose emotional and spiritual lives are ripped apart by feelings
of inferiority because they are NOT "normal." Other people’s
lives are ripped apart because they ARE "normal." There is,
even for those people who will never be "normal," a beauty in
striving to be just an ordinary person. The beautiful truth is we are
all common folk. We are all different but we are all bonded to each
other because we are alike...what a wonderful paradox. We are all human
beings and no matter how good, how bad, how high, how low, or how
anything in between we might be, we are all common people. When we
accept that all of us are common folk, that we are all ordinary, that we
are all more alike than we are different, that acceptance brings a
beautiful truth and light into our souls. We must all remember that
every human being that has ever lived on earth or that will ever live on
earth, except Christ, is just a bag of dust except for the soul.
GIFT NO. 3…STRIVE TO TREAT PEOPLE KINDLY: Mike had a special
kindness and gentleness about him. Mike’s kindness and gentleness
brought out the greatness in others. To treat people with kindness and
gentleness is not easy. Today, some people believe that being rude and
crude is admirable. However, when we are kind and gentle with other
people, we pass along the substance of God.
GIFT NO. 4…STRIVE TO NOT EVALUATE OR MAKE JUDGMENTS: Many
times, we make judgments about people without knowing them. Outward
appearances can be deceiving. One of our jobs as a human being is to
bring out the very best in others. The best way to do this job is not to
make snap judgments or decisions about others. People made judgments
about Mike without knowing about what he would accomplish in his life.
Persons with disabilities know the truth about having others make
judgments about them that are not accurate. When we stop making
evaluations and judgments we stop being critical of others. When we stop
being critical or criticizing others, we begin to build a strong bond
between them and us.
GIFT NO. 5…STRIVE TO BE PATIENT: Some of us are not patient
people. We cannot wait. We must see results "NOW!" or we go
crazy. The virtue of patience can be learned. Some people have to learn
patience the hard way (through a lot of pain); however, some people
never learn patience and spend their whole lives in terrible frustration
We must learn to be patient with ourselves. We must also learn
to be patient with others, We must all realize that everyone in the
world has a burden or disability of some kind. Some of these burdens or
disabilities are visible, and some are not. Just as each of us needs
others to be patient with us, we need to be patient with them.
GIFT NO. 6…. STRIVE TO GIVE LOVE THAT IS NEEDED
DESPERATELY If there was any one gift Mike Wagner brought to the
world, it was love. How God did it is known only to Him. Each of us must
accept that God may have put us on the Earth in a special situation or
may have put on us a special circumstance to make sure others around us
got the message that love, kindness, caring, compassion, and mercy are
vital ingredients in life. Although you might not like the idea, God may
have chosen you to be a messenger to carry and show others the qualities
of love, kindness, caring, compassion, and mercy in action.
Some people wonder or think to themselves, "Since I have to
carry an extra burden in life, shouldn’t I be getting these gifts from
others instead of having to give them." You are partially correct.
The problem with life is that we get no credit for answers that are
partially correct. We get no partial credit. All of us need these six
gifts from Mike, but what is most important is not whether we get the
gifts. What is most important is whether we give them.
This holiday season you have the greatest opportunity in the
world to give away some of Mike’s gifts. When you give these gifts,
what you give away comes back to you, many times over. May the love of
our Savior bless you and keep you.