After sharing a family photo on social media, David and Mercedes Rizzo realized that the snapshot taught a lesson about human dignity.
The other day we shared on social media a photo of two of our four children. We thought it was a nice photo so we posted it. It was a photo of our daughter Danielle, who is nonverbal, communicating to her brother Colin using her iPad. After we posted it, we started to receive comments. Comments like, “this is beautiful”, “I love this”, “this photo is everything”, “this photo is heartwarming.”
To us, this interaction between Danielle and Colin was a sweet moment, and not unlike many such moments we’ve seen. This is how our daughter communicates and her siblings have come to understand and know that she has something to say. They have spent years learning how to interact with Danielle, and have learned to accept their sister’s communication limitations and abilities.
One thing that was obvious in the photo was how attentive our son Colin was to his sister as she was attempting to communicate to him. It often takes quite a while for Danielle to “say” what she wants to say. The person interacting with her must be patient and attentive to fully understand her. This can be time-consuming. All of our children have learned how their sister communicates or is trying to communicate whether it be with an iPad, a book of pictures called a PECS book, or sign language. They appreciate her diligence in trying to get her wishes known or her point across. Danielle’s brothers and sister have learned to accept her inherent dignity and respond accordingly.
We are told in the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis:
God created mankind in his image; in the image of God, he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
This is surely the foundational building block of Catholic social teaching and the dignity of the human person. It’s why we all deserve to be treated with honor and respect. We are all beloved children of God.
This allows all of us to see something godlike in every person. Perhaps that is why so many people responded to our photo with such positive comments. In a way this reminded us of something the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, writing about an experience of the dignity of all persons, once said:
It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts … the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.
Perhaps that is what people saw.
Copyright 2022 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others copyright 2022 David and Mercedes Rizzo, all rights reserved.
About the Author
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).