They Look Normal To Me

by | July 29, 2012

This weeks blog comes from Dawn Nelson, Equinox Business Law Group

The human spirit is an amazing thing that can cause triumphs over the impossible and bravery in the grimmest of circumstances. It’s something that rises from an internal place that cannot be described or explained or falsified. It’s beautiful.

I stood on the patio one day and my son looked at me in confusion and asked what does “special needs” mean?  I had promised myself that I would never allow him to think he was less than any of his counterparts and found myself staring at this precious boy and searching for an answer to what seemed to be a difficult question. I proceeded to explain how each of us is designed differently and special needs are things that can make certain tasks difficult for a person. “Can we see them?” he asked.  To which I responded that sometimes they are visible and sometimes they are not. “Who do we know that has a special need?” he asked. This conversation happened just days following the summer Special Olympic Games that he had just been competing in for soccer. I asked him if he had seen anyone at the Summer Games who may have looked different, or walked or talked differently. He stared off into the distance as if to be concentrating on this question a great deal. He replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about mom, they all looked normal to me.” My heart leapt in that moment, and yet a bit of me wept as well.

Due to my son’s disabilities, he may never be able to see things the same way that “normal” people do. He will always struggle to understand the world and all of its nuances. However, I am confident he will never struggle to accept others the way they are. He will never struggle with judging others because they don’t look a certain way, and he won’t be worried, confused or uncomfortable talking with those who are different.

My son’s response taught me something that day on the porch. He taught me to not see differences in people as deficiencies, but rather I should see them as beautiful, and perhaps my judgments make me not as brave as I once thought. Bravery means to embrace difficult things while keeping your character and integrity intact. It was in this moment I understood this is the bravery that is the spirit and heart of the Special Olympics. When Special Olympics athletes are on the field they leave all inhibition behind and strive for the best that they can give with no thought to their differences. When another athlete “falls short” they praise them with cheers for trying because Special Olympics athletes understand that giving their all is all that should be required.

In the early 1960s, the Special Olympics were formed because Eunice Kennedy Shriver understood this very important concept. She wanted a place where intellectually challenged children could gather and be alike in their uniqueness while celebrating their achievements. The Special Olympics athlete’s oath says “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt”. This was taken from a saying that the gladiators used to say before entering the arena to fight.  Well, to all of the Special Olympics athletes I say thank you. Thank you for teaching me how to truly accept others and be brave in all of my attempts, and the world is truly a more beautiful place because of you.