there are some who will always be losers in this competitive race of life.
They will always lag behind, never having any hope of achieving a successful
career or material means. They are our challenged ones who, through misfortune
or poor choices or because of age, cannot keep up with the rest. They
have some kind of disadvantage. They may be developmentally challenged.
Or perhaps they are challenged (disabled) physically, mentally or emotionally.
We refer to them as 'special needs' people because, in some way, their
survival depends on the help of others. Maybe they are also special for
another reason - a reason that is less obvious. Perhaps they hold a key
to some treasure for us - treasure that is hidden and that few discover
- treasure that can make our entire society stronger and healthier.
When we become frustrated or impatient with them, we have an opportunity
to recognize our own need to become more patient and more sensitive. When
we are tempted to see them as inferior to ourselves we have an opportunity
to face our arrogance. When we find ourselves looking down on them, we
discover our own prejudices. When they embarrass us, we recognize our
self-centered tendencies. When we feel frustrated and unable to fix their
problems, we humbly face our own limitations and helplessness. Special
needs people teach us to put humans ahead of material possessions.
We then can respond by reaching out with compassion. And that is what
makes us better people. Caring people make a stronger society.
I got to know her, I thought that she was not connecting with anything
that was going on around her. I even wondered what possible reason there
could be for her to be alive. I was very astonished when I later learned
that she had written a book about her life's experiences. It had taken
her seven years to finish that book. She had typed the letters on a specially
designed message board that had been fixed onto her wheelchair. It was
an awkward task that required much patience. In the book she expressed
many of her painful experiences - for instance, when she felt like an
inconvenience. She also shared about happy times - like when others befriended
her. Most of all, she shared her joy of knowing that she was a gift from
taught me that we cannot know what's on the inside of a person merely
by looking on their outside or their lot in life. I needed that lady just
as much as she needed me.
once told the well-known story of "The Good Samaritan" [Luke
10]. In those days the Samaritans were regarded as an inferior race. The
Jews despised them. In the story, a Samaritan man who is traveling on
a journey, encounters a beaten-up stranger on the roadside and stops to
help. Just prior to that, two religious "upright" men had walked
right past the victim, leaving him in the ditch. Jesus used this story
to explain what love really is. Love is giving value to other humans,
regardless of their lot in life. This is true religion. The Jews, whom
Jesus was addressing, had assumed that they were God's best ones. However
they had failed to love. It was actually the Samaritan who was practicing
*About Image: From Brazil, this highly faceted rock crystal (quartz) egg is 7,000 carats. From the Gem and Mineral Collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (Courtesy of the Smithsonian imaging site)
by Diane Eaton
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