I just finished a book entitled “The Beautiful Girl” written by Rachel Simon. It is a story about a young girl with an intellectual disability, who spends a good portion of her life institutionalized. Although the book is classified as fiction it is more real than not. The author does an excellent job of developing the characters, all who share their own pearls of wisdom along the way – the kind that tend to stay with you. One that has been rolling around in my brain the past few days is “A small happiness can make a big sadness less sad.”
The painful truth of the matter is that there are many, many people living with a developmental disability who have had and continue to experience big sadnesses in their lives. These sadnesses aren’t obvious to most of us because when terrible things occur, this population is not usually capable of defending themselves or even knowing how or where to go for help. Their sadnesses too often remain hidden, and their terrible stories go untold.
It is heart-wrenching to think about that, but it speaks to the fact that Special Olympics is not just a nice cause or fun opportunity – it is incredibly important work. Special Olympics is a place where people with intellectual disabilities are safe, respected, and valued, and because of us – greater understanding and acceptance is built within our communities. Each and every athlete experience has the potential to enrich and change a life. That is profound.
For those who come to us with big sadnesses – we offer back as many small happinesses as we can muster through the pure and simple joy of sport. For those out there who dream of playing but don’t even know if or how it can happen – do not give up hope. Happiness awaits you.