Life at times can be daunting. An endless journey filled with one insurmountable challenge after another. From our homes to our businesses to the world going on all around us – it’s often hard to stay focused on the proverbial “big picture” when faced with a continuous sea of unknowns.
I present to you the following story – words once spoken by the late Fred Rogers as only he could. “There was a story going around about the Special Olympics. For the hundred-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and, at the sound of the gun, they took off.
But one little boy didn’t get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry.
The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him – every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.
They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
When I first read this passage, it was hard for me to justify my mood and behavior at the time. My day was filled with trials and tribulations at work, I was already incredibly frustrated due to a case of writer’s block and my commute home was a series of one roadblock after another.
But as I read the passage again, I felt ashamed that I’d allowed myself to waste so much time and energy being angry and upset over what in reality was a pretty good day.
I think a great deal of us are guilty of this crime. We always feel that our problems at work or at home are the only ones that exist in the world – that no one could be suffering worse than we are. And then you come across a story like the one I just relayed to you.
A story about the so-called individuals who are physically or mentally disabled and realize, where it counts they are probably the most enabled people in the world – far better than the likes of me and you. Simply put – they know what it means to care.
Let’s be honest, when was the last time competitive and aggressive America put anyone before themselves? When have the plagues of others ever truly effected our lives and the way in which we live them? Did you ever stop and think when you’re paying for a $300 pocket book or a $200 pair of jeans how far that money would carry a family with nothing?
Of course not, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Because we are a society whose only interest lies with what will benefit us and how we’ll find a way to be the first to cross the finish line. Losing is never an option it seems.
It was interesting to discover that those individuals with Down Syndrome consistently have a great deal of respect and devotion towards work. They’re affectionate and caring, and believe in the simple art that a hug can really make things better – uncharacteristic qualities of a society who has more biases towards their fellow man than legs on a centipede.
And what about all those “bad habits” so many of us have? A survey was conducted in Park Ridge, Illinois, at a clinic for adults with Down Syndrome. Of the 3000 surveyed there were no drug addicts or gamblers, only two alcoholics and a very small number of smokers.
They did mention in the survey however that a “Betty Ford” clinic might have to be set up for those who seem to have an addiction to soda and those incurable savers of everything paper.
We are quick to judge our own lives. In one breath we feel as though we’ve hit the bottom and that no one could possibly understand how difficult the challenges we have to face truly are. Yet in the next breath we’re back to our self-serving ways, mocking those with special disabilities as though somehow their lives are simply insignificant when compared with our own.
Those with disabilities will journey down a road that many of us will never take. They will face obstacles and difficulties far greater than the so-called “problems” that seem to rock the very foundations our lives are built upon. And yet through it all, somehow I can’t help but feel they’ve come out the winners in all of this.
Somehow they have the answers to how to live and what’s important.
The final words of Roger’s story went something like this, “It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: What we are ultimately determines what we do.”