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Take a step back

Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 10, 2008

We all know that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I love this day. What are the first thoughts that this holiday brings to mind? Food, obviously. Gathering with family, playing football with the cousins, cooking classic dishes, and discussing religion and politics are just a few of the day’s activities. At some point, however, I do sit back and thank God for all He has given me (and I should be doing this more often). Family, friends, faith, freedom, education, health, and the list goes on and on. But there is one especially prized gift that God has given my family: two incredible people with special needs.

My brother Patrick has Asberger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. My sister Meg has Acondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. These two people may be the greatest blessings in my life. And that’s why it hurts so much when I hear daily the words “retarded” and “midget” thrown around. It hurts because I have lived through the suffering they have endured from this reckless or malicious use of language. I suspect that we all react similarly when someone mocks or demeans one of our siblings – for any reason. I think that most, if not all, of us immediately become defensive and want to support our siblings. At least that’s how I respond every time I hear those words used in disparaging or negative contexts.

I am so grateful for Pat and Meg in my life. I wish everyone could have the gift of someone with special needs in their family life. Those with special needs have a deep, genuine love of life. They may lack intellectual or physical capabilities, but their abilities to love and to forgive are admirable. They are much younger than I am, but I sincerely look up to each of them. So, I invite all of us to take a step back, thank God for all He has given us and reflect upon ways we may misuse words and submit to stereotypes that really do inflict great harm to those with special needs and to their Creator. Thanks Pat and Meg for being who you two are.

Mary Conroy


Pasquerilla West

Nov. 9