Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Club

As I was walking Janey into school for her last day of 1st grade, I saw a boy I've known since he was a baby, looking very handsome in a suit, getting ready for 5th grade graduation. Then I talked to a mother of twins about her summer plans. After I dropped off Janey, I saw the old principal of the school, and had a good talk with him about the boys. As I was walking to my car, I talked to a few other members of the school staff about their kids. What do all these people have in common? They are all members of the club---the club of those affected by serious disabilities. From the boy with Down Syndrome to the twin in a wheelchair to the principal who is blind, they all are members. And today, for one of the first times, I had a feeling of pride in also being in that club.

Of course, in a lot of ways, pride is a strange thing to feel. It's not a club anyone tries to join. The membership fees are incredibly high. The initiation rites can be life-threatening, heart-wrenching. The meetings don't occur often enough to keep members from feeling incredibly isolated at times. There are not a lot of facilities for us, not a lot of perks or parties or benefits.

But it's all about the members. The members I have met are some of the most remarkable people on this earth. They have struggled for everything they have, for their children or themselves. Contrary to what many would think, they are also funny, happy, cheerful people much of the time. In the popular text talk of today, they absolutely get that YOLO (you only live once). They don't feel sorry for each other or for themselves, for the most part. But they get it. They get each other's lives. They celebrate each other's triumphs, and cry each other's tears.

As I talked to the people I talked to today, I realized I didn't talk to any of them about disabilities. We had some laughs, talked about summer plans, said some goodbyes, caught up. I left the school feeling as I often do after being there---on a bit of a high. As I saw yesterday, not everyone in the world gets what our club members go through. There are many that aren't in the club that do, and in fact many of them, especially the teachers and others that work with our kids, are more than honorary members. But like all good clubs, we have our rivals---those who make fun of us and ours, belittle us, are annoyed by how we might change their routines or talk oddly and loudly or just plain remind them of something that for some reason they don't want to be reminded of. That's part of being an exclusive club, I guess.

I'm not going all "Welcome to Holland" here. If I could go back and refuse membership to the club, I would. But membership, once you are chosen, isn't optional. I'm a lifetime member, and there's nothing I can do about that but be proud to be in a club with some of the most amazing people in this world.