American culture is full of stories of people (and animals) who overcome disabilities, such as Dumbo, Forrest Gump, Hellen Keller, Seabiscuit, and more. I even admit to liking some of them. I unashamedly bawl every time I see Mrs. Jumbo locked up for defending her son, and I enjoyed the movie “Seabiscuit” very much. But what disturbs me is that we are feeding ourselves a message: only those who overcome incredible odds are worthy of our admiration.
OK, we need things to spur us on, to achieve things in our lives. And stories like “National Velvet” (anyone here old enough to remember that?) play to that need.
But I think that the real heroes are those who need to deal, day by day, with the inability to be like everyone else, who are not “poster” children for the NDSS(National Down Syndrome Society), who are regular kids with disabilities. I see how Ricki struggles day-by-day to deal with the stares she get in buses, on the street, 24/7. I see her friends at drama class who sometimes live lonely lives as they are not yet independent, and whose disabilities may well lead to them never being married. And I see parents, who may be dealing not only with a disabled child, but perhaps are additionally challenged with problems other “normal” families face, and am amazed that they just put one foot in front of the other sometimes. And I think that we need to inscribe on our minds that we are in life to run our race, to do our best, and being first place is not necessarily the objective.
Just remember: Winning is Nice, but it REALLY is the race that matters.