One man's true story of caring for, laughing with and learning from people with special needs.
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Challenged: A Tribute
Challenged: A Tribute
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THE RABBIT HOLE AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW
That face! That face! That hideously gnarled, shockingly repulsive, poop-in-your-pants-inducing face! It was a face unlike any other I’d ever encountered before. So startling in its appearance, so vivid in its delivery, so unanticipated and abrupt on an otherwise picture-perfect afternoon. Huge nose, droopy liver lips, plaque-riddled horse teeth, bright orange hair, and Coke-bottle glasses magnifying a lazy eye. Looking into Sammy’s face was like being forced to watch a 3-D horror movie in extreme close-up. It was a disfigured face of swollen, exaggerated proportions, taut, shiny skin, and a port-wine stain birthmark spilled across half of it, which forced me to wonder if maybe he had a twin brother somewhere, and when you put their heads together their faces would complete a map to buried treasure. In short, it was one freaky-looking mug.
Prior to this moment I’d never had much exposure to retarded people, and I found the sight of someone even microscopically disabled unnerving. So it was probably fate that the first individual I encountered on the way to my interview would be little Sammy White. As I sauntered across the courtyard, full of high hopes, that’s when I was suddenly and so abruptly accosted nose-to-nose, in-your-face, by Sammy the Face.
“Do you have five dollars?”
“I said, do you have five dollars?”
Flustered by this troll-like being before me, I fumbled and fished my pockets. “Uh ... no, I sure don’t.”
“I have one dollar,” The Face proclaimed with childlike pride.
“Oh. Well, isn’t that nice --”
“BUT I WANT FIVE DOLLARS!” Suddenly, The Face threw its arms around me and burrowed deep into my best shirt, sobbing relentlessly as snot erupted from its nose like tepid green lava. I froze like the victim of a bear attack -- a bear with a killer sinus infection, no less. Stunned into submission, I gently patted The Face on the head. I didn’t know what to do, how to react. Should I slowly back away and try to walk around it? If I dared so much as twitch would the scary face eat me? Could it smell my fear as clearly as I could smell the tuna fish casserole it had consumed for lunch? I didn’t want any trouble. All I wanted was to arrive on time for my interview. But The Face refused to let me pass, clinging tightly, locked in a mortal standoff.