Sunday, September 12, 2010
Special needs, special people
I spent a large part of yesterday afternoon, at a "backyard barbecue for the families of special needs children. At around 2:30, after I had been coaxing smiles out of kids--kids whose entire thought process is a complete mystery to me--so we could have some photos for the folks, we took a group photo. Fifty or so Special Needs kids and about an equal number of siblings and parents. I'm on a stepladder yelling that they all need to "LOOK AT ME!". I shot maybe 20 frames. Initial inspection tells me I got a few good ones. Several of the organizers and volunteers said they were quite surprised at my being able to get the majority of the Specials to even face me, never mind smile, or give me "thumbs up". I was not. Those kids, for all of their difficulties in communicating, functioning at a level deemed "societally" acceptable, learning or even, in some cases, feeding themselves are reachable and teachable. I wish I could use one of those photos, take it to some of the other "group" shoots I do and show it the people that are pissing and moaning about having to spend a moment or two getting the photo done for whatever purpose. Show them the picture. Tell them that those kids, stranded somewhere that I can't go, are doing better than they are at this. Not to shame them, but to make it plain that there is such a gulf between those of us blessed with "normalcy" and these special people--and it's a gulf across which they can, in most cases, only gaze, if they even notice it. We can cross it, even if they don't see us or hear us--they know we're there. They CAN feel love. I can't use any of those photos, issues of privacy and my own sense of fairness prohibit that. The other thing about the event was that it was held at the estate (and I do mean estate) of the local political kingpin's family. They are old school Republicans and I saw them as humans, something I was not prepared for. They didn't merely open the gates and provide some space. They worked the event and spent time with kids, parents, staff and volunteers. I'm fairly certain that the assemblyman knows my politics and I very definitely know his. But, he and I share the notion that it's not just about controlling costs, it's about serving those who need help.