Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mi Hermano

I think it's appropriate that my brother, John, stars in the debut post of my blog. I want to tell a little story about John, as recounted to me by my dad.

John and my parents often take trips to Placer High School, my former school, to run laps around the track. I think John gets stir-crazy from all time spent watching videos, reading books, and looking at packages (think several dozen books,videos, and images wrapped in clear plastic). John is the most routine-oriented person I know and this manifests itself in many, many ways. When John runs around the track, he either carries a book, video, or package (predictable, I know). These jogging episodes may last anywhere from 2-8 laps, depending on John's energy or mood, what have you.

This week, Dad took John out to the PHS track to jog. Usually my dad sits in the bleachers while John run/walks around the track, this outing must not have been any different. As John entered the bend of the track before the straightaway where my Dad stood, John looked back. Behind him was a man who had been running for quite awhile, at least long enough to work up a good sweat. As John saw the runner gaining on him, John took off. He gripped his book tightly and ran, he ran hard. With his legs kicking out in awkward arcs, his back hunched over, his face parallel to the ground, and his head bobbing with pronounced effect, John sprinted as best he could. Dad told me he could hear John saying something to himself. John has been known to engage in self-talk to convince himself of certain things.

As John came down the straightaway, he had clearly gained some ground on the man who was unaware of his participation in the race he was about to lose. John neared the finish line and Dad could hear him saying to himself, "I'm gonna beat this guy." When John was even with my dad, he stopped, as if crossing the finish line. And if I know John, he probably said something like, "All done, let's go home."

The man jogging passed Dad and John, unaware of what had happened. A separate jogger was passing by my brother and father as they sat on the bleachers and said to John, "Hey man, I saw you beat that guy, that was pretty impressive." John, with his head naturally pointed towards the ground, probably looked up at the man, and maybe he offered a simple "thank you."

Something about that story strikes me as very profound. I think about the fact that society sees the disabled as something less than human. I think this transfers into seeing the disabled as helpless. If someone is disabled and helpless, they surely can't be competitive. John's competitive nature that shines through in this story makes me smile. He just wanted to succeed, he wanted to be victorious. He doesn't get the chance to do that too often. I think the Special Olympics probably exist so the disabled can feel a sense of accomplishment and success because there certainly aren't too many outlets for the disabled to succeed in our society.

The second things that strikes me about this story is the observing jogger who spoke to John. I imagine the man noticed the peculiar way which John carried himself as he jogged around the track. As John raced to the finish line, the man probably noticed John's awkward gait. But more than that, the man noticed John's determination. He noticed how fast John ran.

God, teach us how to acknowledge and affirm that John is created in your image. Teach us to foster community for John, and for all those that live with disability. May we each recognize our own disabilities, as big or small as they may seem. But primarily, let us remember that we are one. We are one creation, each created particularly, in your image.