I have some good friends who are foster parents. A few years ago they adopted an adorable child called Sarah Louise, who happens to be handicapped.
Sarah Louise is one of the most beautiful and lovable children anyone has ever met. Whenever there are visitors to the house they fall for her beauty and personality, invariably wanting to visit her time and time again. Some people have even bought property nearby just to be able to see more of her.
Strangers pass her in the street and are instantly captivated by her air of serendipity and friendliness. Most people who get to know her have a strange feeling that she could take on the world and probably beat it if only there were a few changes to her environment. Some admire her clothes, others swoon over her mind, many fall for her smile and others just love the complete package.
There's something about her. Really. Yet she has her problems.
One of them is her spine. Where many able bodied people have a strong and good backbone Sarah Louise has one that is sadly quite weak and failing at its very core. Sometimes it's hard for anyone else to see this. It can be covered up very easily by clothes and pretence.
Some Doctors reckon they could fix this. It wouldn't be easy and it might be painful for some time. Parts of Sarah Louise's life have actually benefitted for many years because of the bad spine. These elements would lose the benefits but the cure would enable the rest of her life to return to normal. And of course there are no guarantees.
The single biggest problem is the attitude and behaviour of her foster parents. When they first adopted her they embarked on an intensive and risky programme to try to defeat the infection in Sarah Louise's body. They succeeded, when many other people said they wouldn't. The others tried to help, many even hindered and were seen by her parents as interfering. The reality is that it was her parents who did defeat the infections. Other foster parents had tried, all had failed.
Since then other people have been questioning the methods used. They've been asking if perhaps the methods will turn out to be bad for Sarah Louise in the long term, whether the parents have been successful in treating the symptoms but have failed to deal with the cause.
The parents and their group of loyal friends have been happily accepting donations and help from neighbours and even total strangers, as long as those people haven't queried the methods used. As soon as a donor has asked any probing questions the parents have stuck two fingers up to them and told them where to go, accusing them of having ulterior motives, saying that they should take care of their own offspring first, before they criticise others.
Each time they say this they isolate themselves from the rest of society that little bit more.
And now, when things look as if they're better, some people outside the family are trying to help and yet are being branded as enemies. The parents act as if Sarah Louise is fully able bodied and totally refute any suggestion that underneath what looks to be a healed skin there might still be health issues. They won't let any Doctors look at her except the ones who'll tell them what they want to hear.
Even more people love Sarah Louise now that she looks so perfect. They come to see her, they court her and they tell their friends about her.
The parents feel and act as if the job is done. They're talking about Sarah Louise entering the Olympics, competing with able bodied people. Who knows? She might just do it, in years to come. I reckon it would be better for her parents to listen to other Doctors, to take advice and help Sarah Louise to take small steps first, then look at the bigger ones.
I suppose the crux of the problem is that they label her as handicapped when it suits them, then tell everyone she's able bodied when they don't like what they hear.
In the meantime Sarah Louise sits and suffers.
Or does she?