Friday, March 19, 2010

Disabilities or Different Abilities?

Last night Shelly and I attended Branson's end of season wrestling banquet. Awards were given, stories were told, and the coaches were thanked. The highlight of the event was when the mother of a boy on the team came up to thank everyone on behalf of her son.

While you wouldn't expect someone's mother to speak on behalf of their son in high school, it is important to realize that her son, James, is autistic. Many children with autism dislike being touched and are anything but social; yet James enjoyed a fun season. Her comment to the coach and his teammates was that James has "different abilities". The coaches and kids embraced James as the fellow teammate that he was and pushed him to do his best. While he did not win many matches, he tried his best and enjoyed the experience. When the banquet was over, many people were touched by her kind words and were also grateful for the kindness and belief that the coaches and team possessed.

That got me thinking about how many times I have seen people try to get some kind of "special" treatment because of this condition or that condition. They invest 100% of their energy on lowering the bar of expectation for themselves instead of pushing themselves to grow. I have had the privilege of working with people who have looked at a perceived disability as a different ability.

My favorite author, Vince Flynn, is dyslexic. Yet that has not stopped him from writing 12 best selling books. My friend, Roger Crawford is missing the lower portion of one of his legs. That has not stopped him from helping people discover their possibilities by speaking all over the world. The world is full of examples of people who have made a decision to embrace life as a participant, not a victim.

The story about James Plavak is not only a great lesson because of what he decided to do; it is a great lesson about what is possible for all of us to do when we embrace the strengths and possibilities of people who have abilities which are different than our own.

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