Like mothers with a protective instinct for the young, I grew up with a protective instinct for the mentally retarded. It’s two totally different things, I know, but it hits the same response for me. My mother worked with the mentally retarded kids in school when I was younger, and even now, she’s a social worker for those less fortunate than we are in the intellect department. When I was little, I played with many of them and although they did creep me out sometimes, I learned to accept and love them for who they are. I remember once when a kid who obsessed over dinosaurs brought his toys to school, he tried to approach other kids for playtime but they just ran away from him in sheer terror. I was young then, but their reaction crossed the line. I remember marching next to the boy and continually grilling everyone older than me who dared to treat him like a freak.
Ever since then, my heart always turns bitter when a mentally retarded kid is treated unfairly. Not long ago, I finished a film called I am Sam. The story tells of a father with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old and his daughter, who limits her own ability because she doesn’t want to do anything that he can’t. It’s a heart-wrenching story that follows the father’s custody battle in court. (Just incase you are curious, it stars Sean Penn and young Dakota Fanning, it’s a superb movie and it can be found on Youtube!) The movie teaches us that just because someone doesn’t have what it takes to pass 3rd grade, doesn’t mean he/she is incapable of loving. Through this, I was able to find proof against a man’s claim that God cannot possibly exist if he has intentionally made some of us retarded, less human, but that’s a discussion for another day.
On the second day of work, I played with a young man who I assumed was mentally slower than others (based on real obvious clues) named Quentin. Quentin is in the 7th grade and he has a very outgoing personality (perhaps because he doesn’t know any better). Today when one of my 6th grader came up to me to “tell on” Quentin, who she claimed keeps “staring at her” and it made her uncomfortable, I quickly shot down her hope for me to do something about it. I guess she wanted me to talk to Quentin or to his teacher, but I asked her why it would even bother her. Maybe he just wants to play with someone, because from my observations, NOT A SINGLE KID has extended their hands for this young man. So I told my girl sternly, “Just because he may not behave like everyone else doesn’t mean he’s a creep. He just wants to play”. For days now I have tried to make small talks with Quentin and greet him. Aside from one other person who is not a teacher, I haven’t seen anyone welcome him with open arms. Not only does that break my heart, but it makes me angry.
It’s a part of that protective instinct. I understand that odd behaviors can turn people off, but Quentin has a good heart, and I don’t understand why people (at least kids) can’t see past that. When I was little, I used to pray for them every night, asking God to make their lives just a little less difficult. Today’s incident wasn’t that extreme, but whenever someone crosses that line, I am quick to become defensive.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” -Luke 23:34
“You say You are jealous, You say You are kind, but the jealous part seems to win all the time
If You’re so might, why do You break, the weak the and weary and steal what they make?”