Tuesday night is quickly becoming my favorite night of the week. It is the night that Peyton and I make our weekly trek down to Humble Middle School for his Special Olympics basketball practice. Upon entering the gym, the warmth of these wonderful athletes and their families is felt immediately with a barrage of “hellos or great to see you,” smiles and hugs. Peyton and I counted 10 hugs last night before I could find a place to sit.
The athletes on Peyton’s team have various skill levels and range in age from 12-56. Though agility and stamina levels vary, there is no shortage of effort or competitiveness on the court with athletes diving for balls on a regular basis. There is also no shortage of sportsmanship and kindness. There is always a ready, “Good job,” or high five, or extra pass to make sure that everyone gets a chance to shoot. The parents always offer a tireless source of encouragement celebrating every achievement and player as essential to the team.
I sat there watching the controlled chaos last night thinking, “What a gift. I can learn so much from these beautiful friends.” On display in front of me was kindness, compassion, gentleness, humility, wisdom, sacrificial giving, joy, hope, community, desire and love. Some label these individuals with Downs Syndrome, Mental Retardation, Aspergers Syndrome or Autism as disabled. I would suggest that they are differently abled. These differently abled friends remind me of who I am. I often live under the illusion that I am not disabled or handicapped in different ways, that I have it all together.
Our society has a tendency of pushing aside the weak, the old, the simple, the uneducated or unaccomplished, the differently abled, abnormal or ugly (whatever that means). Yet a closer look at these “differently abled” others reveals a bounty of gifts, blessings, insights and contributions to offer. Each Tuesday night I am reminded of these undeniable truths. I challenge you to find some way to be in immediate contact with the differently abled neighbors in our community. You will be blessed.