I just got done listening to a father speaking of the day his son committed suicide. The young man was 14 years old, had a learning disability, and just couldn’t take any more bullying.
Five years later Jeff Lasater, the boy’s father, has devoted his life to preventing bullying of special-needs kids. This is a noble cause that is best engaged in by passionate people. I’m positive Jeff has a way of bringing this important issue to people that touches them and that his son’s life is honored through Jeff’s actions.
As I listen to Jeff Lasater’s story I am reminded of so many people I know who have made their life’s work advocacy on behalf of a cause that may have been foreign to them until it touched the life of a loved one. Frequently these “over night advocates” are a result of a marginalized person being the victim of injustice; a special needs kid victimized by bullies, a loved one suffering from mental illness, a teen walking while black, a family member who happened to be gay, and so on.
What I find myself thinking about when I hear these stories is “What would these advocates be doing if their loved one was not left on the fringe?” How much productivity, creativity, income potential, tax revenue, etc. do we lose when family and loved ones feel compelled to take up the cause of marginalized people? We kick so many people to the curb on the assumption the marginal cost of inclusion exceeds the marginal revenue to be gained by treating them as whole people. We rarely tally the cost of those who devote their lives to finding justice in a culture that ignores marginalized people and ignores the ancillary costs of injustice.