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Charles, My Superior
Photo: Martin Walls
Charles is 18 years old, attends the high school where I work, smiles a lot, has some moments of temper, and looks at the world through crystal blue eyes. Charles is also mentally retarded.

Charles is taken to the high school every day by people from the home where he resides. He is then cared for by a special education teacher and her aides. From time to time, I have the privilege of subbing for Charles’ teacher. I spend the day with Charles and three  other handicapped teens in the same room. I call it the fun room, and I really mean it! A day with Charles includes a routine of putting large piece puzzles together, snacks, watching the Price is Right (he loves Bob Barker), and taking many walks up and down the hallways, which often become more like runs with Charles in the lead! At the end of a day with Charles and his friends, I am tired, but content.

Many teachers will not agree to sub in that room, but I love it. Yes, my sleeve is wet with drool. Sure, it takes me out of my comfort zone to take a young man who is bigger than I am to the bathroom. And, yes, it would be easier if he could speak like other people. But then he wouldn’t be Charles, would he? When I’m with Charles and his friends, I can’t help but agree with Mr. Rogers, who said, “I like you just the way you are!” 

More Whole Than I was Before

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is my superior in some way, and in that, I learn of him.” That is so true, and I think that is why my days in the special room always leave me feeling more whole than I was before I walked in. I realize that while I can walk in a balanced motion, talk comprehensively, and go to the bathroom all by myself, I can still learn many things from Charles. Like patience. Waiting for his snack requires a measure of patience than I may not have. After all, if I want a snack, I get up and walk to the cupboard and get it. In a few seconds, snack time is a done deal.

It’s a good thing to remember as we cohabitate with all types of people on this planet that we can learn something from everyone. After all, no matter life throws at us, we all were created in the image of God. There are no exceptions. I’m thankful to Charles for reminding me.

" . . ., ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’"(Matthew 25:40). 

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By Gwen Scott Simmons. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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