Ability Does Not Determine Dignity

I recently had the opportunity to read Joseph Dutkowsky’s book Perfectly Human. It is a charming combination of his memoirs, an ode of love to his wife, and a testimony to the very dignity of those who might be called “the least of these,” (Matthew 25:40). Joseph Dutkowsky has spent a large portion of his life working with children, as well as adults, with various disabilities. In Perfectly Human, he does a lovely job demonstrating how these boys and girls, and men and women, are the face of Christ in the world, just as surely as Dr. Joe is the face of Christ to his patients. It is a wonderful reminder that we are all called to be Christ to others, and that we are all invited to find Christ in our fellow man.

Perfectly Human features a series of entertaining anecdotes from Dr. Joe’s life that demonstrate how he got to be where he is today. From his youth as a Polish kid growing up in New York to his days as a resident working absurd hours on very little sleep, the reader is invited to accompany Dr. Joe as he found his vocation as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the care of children with disabilities to an advocate for the rights and dignity of those same people he regularly met, treated, and loved. Dr. Joe’s stories do a great job painting a portrait of the kind of doctor he is. 

Within the pages of Perfectly Human can also be found a beautiful love story between Joseph Dutkowsky and his late wife, Karen. Even though the focus of his book is undeniably his work with children and adults with disabilities, stories of his life with Karen are beautifully interwoven throughout the pages of the book. It is clear that his love of his wife and her support of his work were pivotal in the living out of his vocations as an orthopedic surgeon and an advocate for people with disabilities. 

Finally, Dr. Joe’s book is a beautiful reminder that we all share a common humanity and a common dignity bestowed on us by Christ. Our imperfections, disabilities, and differences do not make us any less perfectly human. God can be found in the child with cerebral palsy just as He can be found in the doctor who treats her.

We are all called to imitate Christ and to give glory to God with our lives, and this is done with and through our imperfections, disabilities, and differences. Each of us carries a cross that has been perfectly crafted for us. It is this cross that will enable us to get to heaven. There is glory to be found in our crosses, even if the world does not see it. Perfectly Human is a lovely reminder that ability does not determine dignity, and that we are all created as precious children in the eyes of God, the only eyes with which we should want to see.