Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick Post . . .

I'm having a bit of a crazy day so I don't want to spend too much time posting but I did want to mention something that has been heavily on my mind all day today. I am sitting on the board of a non-profit group here in Wichita called The Arc of Sedgwick County and they held a VIP breakfast this morning that I attended.

At the breakfast were a number of parents that sang the praises of the Arc's YESS program (a summer school and socialization program for developmentally disabled kids here in the Wichita area) and many of the parents, often teary, got up and told stories about the difference the Arc and YESS are making in not only their children's lives but in the shared life of their family.

The reason many of the parents were teary was, sadly, because their children are still - in the year 2008 - harassed by their peers mercilessly for being "retarded" or "different" or "stupid" or "strange" . . . the kids that taunt them don't understand their disabilities and the kids that live with the disabilities are often unable too or disinterested in educating their attackers. DISCLAIMER - as a kid (and young adult) I was way too casual with tossing around the word "retard" and labeling things, people and experiences as "retarded". For that I am deeply mortified to this day.

It made me very, very grateful that I was never really a victim of taunting as a kid. I had a few "fats" hurled at me and was the butt of a few jokes and certainly I heard whispers and saw stares from strangers but the world of Groton Central School was very, very kind to this "big boned" boy.
I think my parents had a lot to do with protecting me - I was encouraged to have a healthy self esteem and to not feel limited by my weight. I also think going to a small school where you could actually get to know kids was important too. MAINLY I think it was because that I discovered at a young age that if you are kind and funny and self-depricating enough . . . people will not criticize you for the rest. I know that not all obese children have been so lucky and it breaks my heart that kids still taunt people for being fat or for being developmentally disabled. It makes me sad that their parents don't teach them to love one another without bias and it makes me sad that those kids feel that there is "power" to be found in taking someone's self love away or challenging it.

Any who - one more experience in my life today that makes me grateful for and appreciative of the life I had then!

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