"It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others." ALFRED ADLER
Many years ago, I found myself kneeling at the finish line, on a track with six lanes of “runners” coming toward me … my camera at the ready … cheering the Runner progressing toward me in the lane that I occupied … and feeling the tug at my heart-strings as I saw him falling further and further behind the competitors in the five other lanes. The runner was my son. The event was one of several that he was competing in as part of the annual Special Olympics (a version of athletic competition tailored to the special limitations [all mentally impaired to differing degrees … some physically impaired] of its participants.) My son has cerebral palsy and the portions of his brain effected result in a moderate impairment of his intellectual functions as well as a minimal impairment of his hips, and legs. He was, on that day, the only participant in that race who relied in the services of crutches. And it was due to this limitation that he was losing ground to the other competitors.
My role, in all of this, was to subtly assist him in maintaining a focus on his own lane so that he would not drift off into the adjoining lanes. (That challenge of "focus" being one of the aspects of his impairment.) I accomplished this (without causing him the embarrassment that would accompany an obvious display of my intentions) by appearing to be intent on photographing him as he raced. I could see the growing dismay in his eyes as he recognized the inevitability of crossing the finish line well after all of the others had.
Then a wonderful thing, that (even at this moment, all of these years later) still has my eyes brimming with tears, at the recollection. The runner in the lane to my son’s right looked over his shoulder … saw the sadness and frustration on my son’s face … and stopped … and waited … and ushered my son … ahead of him … across the finish line. And then applauded my son (while also cheering him.)
Need I say anything more? Is there anything that my words could add to the eloquence of that young man’s sermon in demonstrated compassion and self-sacrifice? Can the poetry of one person’s obvious generosity of spirit be enhanced by anyone else’s commentary? I think not! So rather than speak to that young gentleman’s nobility, I will speak to us … You and Me.
Would it take so much for us to step aside and allow the one struggling along-side us to move ahead? Will our position in our own life-race be jeopardized by a spirit of generosity and sacrifice? Is that “finish line” of immediate gratification worth the loss of the higher goal of betterment of our shared environment? Will we be any “better off” as a people if we insist on focusing on our own agendas to the exclusion of a sensitivity to the plight of our neighbors? Did that young man not demonstrate, to all of us, the noble value of assuming responsibility for and taking action to benefit those who (while doing all that they are capable of doing) are falling behind?
No, My Dear Reader, I can not add to, nor do I wish to detract from the beauty of the message delivered by that wonderful Human Being’s behavior. So, in this thought on reaching out and touching others, I will dry my tears of recollection … and send these considerations to your safe-keeping.
IMAGE: Matthew Michael Brown (My Son)
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