Author's Note: You may want to read my previous article, ID 11353, before reading this one. It will probably make more sense in parts if you do.
My brother, Tristan, has Autism. He goes to a school that is specifically for disabled children, and they have a program called "Special Olympics". For a few weeks, every Monday, students who signed up for this group ride the bus to the bowling alley, where they bowl until 5:30. My mom went there early, to watch, and to make sure Tristan didn't have a fit for the volunteer coaches. On the second week, I went to watch, too. . .
When I first walked in, I was greeted by the cheering and clapping of the people in lane one. Someone had apparently gotten a spare. This happiness was the mood throughout the bowling alley. My mom and I made our way to lane ten, where we saw my brother doing a wonderful overhand throw. (Let's just say bowling has never exactly been his thing. Although he enjoys it, he refuses to listen when told how to correctly throw the ball.) His ball sped into the gutter almost as soon as it landed. Tristan, indifferent, walked back. (I don't think he understands the point in competition.) When he saw my mom he immediately starting quoting a scene from the movie "Cats Don't Dance" with her.
I continued to watch the bowlers. The next girl picked up her ball and flung it as hard as she could down the lane. She hit one pin and began screaming in joy. She jumped up and down and retrieved her ball for her next roll. One more pin down. She was content with this, and happily bounced back to her seat.
The cheerful energy continued throughout the game. Almost everyone who went up to bowl came back with an ear-to-ear grin on their face, or, when they got gutter balls, made a sad face, then laughed. Watching them made me smile.
But my smile quickly faded when I heard someone who had been bowling on the other side of the building mutter "Retards," and chuckle with the guy next to him as they walked out of the alley. None of the kids seemed to notice, but I boiled with anger and stood up, wanting to ask them what on Earth their problems were. I stopped myself, and sat back down.
These kids, they may not be great bowlers, (The highest score from lane ten that day was 38) they may not be able to communicate well, they may not be able to do everyday tasks as well as we can, but they're genuinely happy. They smile constantly, and as cheesy as this sounds, that's all that matters.
I feel sorry for anyone who has the nerve to make fun of them. Because if that's what you need to do to make yourself smile, then you will never, ever be happy.
Next month our Special Olympics athletes will be trying their hands at basketball. I wonder if they will enjoy it as much as they did bowling.