WE (my husband and I) had the wonderful honor of accompanying my 16 year old son Zack, (some of you may know as Good Boy Roy) to the Special Olympics yesterday at Furman University here in Greenville, SC. When I first was told three years ago that he was going to participate along with his class it really caught me by surprise.
You see Zack does not LOOK like a kid you would expect to see in the Special Olympics, unless as a volunteer. When I think of Special Olympic athletes I imagine children with crutches, wheel chairs, blind, or down syndrome. These are the athletes that we have seen over and over in the media as those that participate in these wonderful games. So, curious as I am, I “googled” Special Olympics to find out how is it that Zack, who does have disabilities for sure, but has been a life long athlete, (and a good one) on the traditional sporting leagues, could qualify to participate in the S.O. Well, my answer was very quick in coming as I discovered that Eunice Shriver Kennedy created these games back in 1962, to embrace ANY child with ANY intellectual disability.
What a grand concept. What a grand idea. What a wonderful event to celebrate. Out of love and desire was formed this most magnificent day for children now world-wide to participate in and not feel less than, not feel different, not feel slow or week or less powerful. To enjoy a place where they are totally accepted, comfortable and awesome.
So, my answer was simple, you see my Zack certainly did qualify, not because he was physically challenged, but due to his learning and emotional “disabilities”, which I use loosely. We here in the Hix homes choose to use the term “challenges” because challenges we all have and can be overcome, some way, some how. You may need to implement some creativity but as my grandfather use to say “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”. The term Disabled, to me, brings out the negative aspect of any “challenge”. I guess it’s that darn DIS part…DISabled, DISfunctional, DISagree, DISqualify. Many people with “disabilities” are highly ABLED, not DISabled !!! They can think, read, write, sing, run, work etc….yet most likely we hear only the DIS part, what they can not do. I understand disability is a term used for a reason, and we certainly have used it ourselves when dealing with GOVERNMENTAL agencies. For services, for help, for educational purposes. I’m brainstorming, let’s take out the term disabled and use abled with assistance ??!!! Sounds good to me.
Now, I do also realize there are millions who are totally dependant upon others for every physical need. As a matter of fact I grew up living next to one such delightful person. She was totally dependant upon her parents to cloth her, bath her, feed her, for any need or want. Yet, she was a highly intelligent person who could write poetry (with a special head band attachment), loved the Beatles, traveled extensively with her parents, had the biggest smile you may ever see, lived a large, full life and so much more. Yet, for most people to see her they would not expect such things, as only her “shell” was exposed. Where there may be abilities that are lacking, there may also be many more productive and creative abilities that go far beyond the superficial and exterior. However, usually, we as a society tend to focus on what we can see, rather than not see. I do believe we are only limited to what we believe we can do and achieve.
Sorry, I digress….We enjoyed a fun and beautiful Spring day watching these wonderful athletes of every size, shape, age, and various degrees of “challenges” have a great time running, throwing, walking, jumping and taking PRIDE in their success. Feeling happy, excited, strong, accomplished and accepted. But I know none of them felt heroic, as they should have. You see what comes easy for most, simply walking, throwing, eating, may be a huge, HUGE feet and accomplishment for many. Yet they do it every day with joy and grace.
I was honored to witness the kindest, most loving, most humble and big-hearted people I have ever seen who struggle with challenges beyond what I believe I could tackle. Aha !! That is why it is called the SPECIAL Olympics, because these athletes are Special, in every way. Not because they have challenges or difficulties that set them apart, but because these same challenges or obstacles make them rise above and prove to us that Impossible is only a word. Impossible only has power if we let it.
Zack with one of his 2 Gold Medals