Seeing special needs students has allowed me to clearly see more about myself.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about Matanzas senior running back Daniel Dillard and his relationship with a special needs student Michael Bailey. He told me he loved spending time with special needs kids, and, when I asked why, he said, “They love unconditionally, and there isn’t a lot, if anything, they dislike. They are happy, and I want to be happy and appreciate things like that.” While at the Seabreeze Special Olympics Unified game last Friday, I better understood him.
Being completely honest, when I first saw the students walking into the gym, I felt sorry for them. But, as I watched them glow on the court, I began to feel sorry for myself and the rest of the “normal” world. Even in the warmup line, a made free throw seemed like a clutch game-winning shot to the kids; they were ecstatic.
And, when the crowd would cheer for a made basket during the game, the joy of being praised on was evident on their faces. It’s been a few days, but I still can remember the way they celebrated each other’s baskets, jumping up and down on the court while pumping up the crowd, although they were losing.
Their happiness on that court and the happiness Dillard talked about seem to be a normal personality for special needs kids. Any sane individual can observe their lives and immediately conclude that they handle life a lot better than we “regular” people. That’s probably why, whenever I do see Dillard, he tends to have a smile on his face. On a daily basis, he’s surrounded by students who always seem to smile, even though we tend to look at down at them.
From now on, when I see special needs kids smiling and enjoying every day, as if it is truly considered a gift, I will still look upon them as special needs, but I will also be reminded that I have special needs. I need help loving unconditionally like them. I need help as I attempt to enjoy life and the things I do have, a lot more like them. I need help to see more of the good in all people, as opposed to looking at everyone with a critic’s eye.
Because I was never clinically diagnosed with needing assistance for a medical, mental or psychological disability does not mean that I can’t be honest with myself and see the needs, those special needs.