THE PILOT EDITORIAL - Who are really the 'handicapped?'

Sunday, November 18, 2001

In the course of banging out a day's news, or for that matter reading it, one meets all kinds. Saints and sinners.

In a world where violence, hatred and suspicion is just a normal day's headlines, we hope you enjoy the chance to meet the members of Storm Lake's Special Olympic bowling team, at least as much as we enjoy bringing them to you.

We call people like them the mentally-disabled, or whatever the politically correct term of the moment is. You may hear some use the term "retarded," perhaps a child reflecting an ugly attitude they soak up at home. For some, if they see them at all, perhaps they simply pity them for not being "normal."

And maybe, just maybe, this "normal" isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Special Olympics teaches us that, if we let it. As much as it teaches the student participants about competition and teamwork, it teaches those who watch on about the beauty to be found inside people.

A person could never ask for a warmer greeting than such a group is eager to give. Their smiles are honest, their trust complete. Their love of people isn't masked away by attitude and image. They don't care about race or color or gender or age. They are not afraid to touch. They aren't so different from anyone else - they want what we all want.

Many proud, learned people have yet to learn those simple lessons.

There are many, many special people in this community that have been dealt physical, mental or emotional challenges. Yet if shorted in one area, it seems, people are gifted with incredible capacities to bloom in another.

Storm Lake has not been one to sweep its special

people out of sight, as some communities do. Our schools believe in integration, our work activity and residential living programs believe in opportunity.

Our special people have much to give us as a community. More capacity to learn than most would ever imagine, and unlimited capacity to love and share.

Nationwide, Special Olympics is becoming short of volunteers. You don't need sports hero skills, if you can hug you can help.

There are many programs around the area that work to educate, provide employment, share life and social experience, and spread understanding with our special neighbors. When we have the chance, in our business or personal roles, we should give them a hand. Their independence should be a practical social goal as well as a point of community pride.

We should take care who we pity. It may just be that those of us who choose to see the special people among us for what they can't do, instead of all they could do, are the ones with the real handicap.