Anyone who's been paying attention even a little bit will have noticed the heartbreaking news articles about young people who have killed themselves as a result of taunting by their peers. There's an ugliness about humans: we pick on anyone who's even a little bit different.
I'm sure every blog reader can recall some example of this, from their own lives. I was one of those shy strange children, who was an instant target for torment by my peers. I kept my head down, and tried to avoid trouble. I did, as a teenager, try to kill myself. I took an overdose of aspirin, which (luckily for the adult me) did nothing more serious than make me deaf for three days. My parents and teachers never had a clue. I was sick as a dog, and couldn't hear a thing that was going on, but I just pretended that I had a head cold, and stayed out of everyone's way.
Why do I mention this?
Because I want you to imagine the difficulties of being a kid who is "different" and then amplify those difficulties. Imagine being a severely disabled child. Imagine looking different, moving differently, and feeling different from all the other kids. Imagine how rough that must be.
Now, imagine an organization, set up to empower those kids to see past what makes them different, that offers fun physical challenges for these kids, and that offers years of mentoring.
This organization is BORP, the Bay Area Outreach Recreation Program. Ostensibly, they offer fun, physical activities for people with disabilities. But that's only part of the picture. They offer an opportunity for kids (and adults) with disabilities to shine. They offer them a chance to push themselves physically, to be swift and agile and competitive, instead of being the "slow" kids.
And more to the point, they offer a safe space in which to grow, to race around, and to flourish. I've written before about the rough future (statistically) that kids with disabilities face, and how BORP participants beat those odds. BORP participants often start as very young children, and stay with BORP into their adult years. (I'm going to re-post this article, tomorrow.)
These severely disabled folks have beaten the odds, and proven how strong they are.
They're not keeping their heads down, or trying not to be noticed.
They are winning gold medals in the paralympics. They are Rhodes Scholars. They are living their lives, with confidence and dignity. And they're having fun, and kicking ass, thanks to organizations like BORP.