Looking past the body to the soul

Yesterday I met the most amazing person, or rather I saw him face to face finally, I had been making copies of his resumes over the last couple days as a favor to my father.

There was a job fair yesterday put on by the Center for Independent Living, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities to thrive on their own by teaching them living skills, etc...

This person was attending to try and find a job as a writer, writing anything anyone would let him, since that was his passion. His resume showed me that he had a master's degree and had written 3 books as well as a collection of short stories and poems. He was unable to find a job anywhere owing to his disability, which I could only imagine what it was at this point.

I imagined a man with a slight case of MS, walking with a cane, or something else that just impaired his ability to walk. He went to college and got a PhD, he couldn't be that disabled I thought. At this job fair my father says to me, "There's Fred now, coming over here." I scanned the room and the only person approaching us was a man, severely inflicted with cerebral palsy, his mouth crooked to one side, both hands and arms forever locked in an oddly shaped manner, able to move just enough to push the joystick on his electric wheelchair (which he drove with a precision greater than I could imagine any able person trying.)

When he spoke you could hardly understand him as his vocal muscles did not cooperate with what his mind tried to command them to say. He was talking to people on his way across the room towards us, I noticed how people seemed to talk to him in that sing song voice you talk to a child in, this man, who had more schooling than they more than likely did. This man, who went through grade school, college, and grad school, pressing one finger to one key making one letter at a time.

It took him only 3 years to finish grad school in this manner. While talking with him I found myself laughing. He had a sharp wit, somewhat off-color at times. He let me read a little of a short book he wrote called, "Year." It was excellent, and the part that got me was that his writing was so descriptive, so eloquent, that you would have never guessed it came from a man who took 3 times as long as others to write a sentence.

He commented that he wanted illustrations for that book and I told him I'd like the job if he liked my work. So I took the book home to finish reading. Coming up with imagery will be no problem with the way this guy writes.

It amazed me that inside this form, which so many people and employers have looked over and ignored as "just another retard", was a man so creative, so intelligent, so humorous, and so motivated that he put more than half the world's able-bodied inhabitants to shame with the quality of person he is.

© copyright, 1998, Terry Howard
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