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.
Praise for CHALLENGED: A TRIBUTE
“Inspiring, encouraging, and a few surprises. Challenged is a well-written story that makes you laugh, cry and reflect on the “good old days” and the many positive changes in our field over the past 30 years. Steve Grieger has seen it all... Sharing his successes and challenges of everyday life!”
--Mark R. Klaus, Executive Director, Home of Guiding Hands
“Funny and deeply honest. As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, anyone who has ever loved or cared for someone with special needs will find it transcendent.”
--Patricia Connolly, parent and advocate
“Mr. Grieger’s witty and insightful book speaks to the heart of the human spirit. Through a series of eye-opening adventures it presents a unique and fascinating world, one that deserves recognition, filled with the joys and heartbreaks of self-discovery… It is an important contribution to the field of intellectual disabilities and other allied professions, and would make a wonderful addition to any classroom or home library.”
--Dr. Tomeka S. Williams, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, BA Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
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