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11:26 am: Taking a good thing too far
Recently, a friend sent around a feel-good story that is recorded on snopes in a slightly altered form at http://www.snopes.com/glurge/chush.asp
The story is cute; the version I read was even more poignant, with the little boy dying at the end, having until his last day recalled the one time he had been a hero at the ballpark.

What bothered me was the reaction of the person at snopes.
In this story a group of boys playing baseball let a disabled child who cannot hit a ball make a run and win the game for his team.
The author at Snopes writes: “Can a disabled boy hit a ball as well as a perfectly-abled one? No. But can that same child learn to work within his disabilities to the point of achieving real accomplishments he can take honest pride in? Absolutely. And that beats all the pity-driven home runs in the world.”
My response:
I am certainly in favor of given all children the best chance we can, and of helping them -- able and disable -- to find their way in the world. But, I think there comes a point when our politically correct motivated desire to help goes overboard. It may be that you let your ten year old lose and learn from it, but you let your toddler run the bases to find out the joy of it and to encourage him to try again.

 In this case, it sounded (at least in the version I read) like Shaya was more like the toddler than the ten-year old

I know a lot of little boys. Little boys are selfish, thoughtful, active, and sometimes loving…but pity? I have never yet seen a little boy who understood the meaning of pity.
Little boys love to win. The fact that those boys stepped back to support Shaya showed a sense of them standing up for something greater than just themselves. That alone is worth a great deal.
I know quite a few little boys something like Shaya. I just threw a party where the invitation list included eight autistic children. None of those children would have gained anything from being shown 'the limits of their disability.' They are not at the point yet where that would be a lesson of any value to them.
Or rather it is a lesson they face every day. Succeeding and feeling the joy of friendship and teamwork...now that's a lesson they could use more of!


[User Picture]
Date:June 14th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)

Too far in more than one direction

Thank you for your comments again here. While I am guilty of starting that whole thing, I could not participate in that conversation once the responses came in. If it were not for your contribution, I would completely regret sharing that story at all.

I had tried to mention that I cut away a lot of moralizing so that the recipients could just enjoy a pleasant story. It was quite disheartening to me that the first response of more than one person was to check snopes. Aesops fables are blatantly challengable, yet we may see and enjoy a level of truth in them. Meno's slave boy may never have existed but it makes Plato's point no less valid.

Your patience extended one step further than mine: you were disappointed in the writer from snopes rather than the people who looked it up. I must agree with you on your point as well, though. It strikes me as the difference between people who are familiar with disability in theory vs. experience. Besides, how does a child, (in this case child is a statement of mental and emotional development,) understand thier limits if they have never succeeded at anything? In this particular story, Shay experienced running further than he ever hsd in his life; he seung a bat and missed, twice, then felt how lightly a ball needed to be tossed in order to hit it. Limits are dicovered through success as well as failure. The boys also experienced going beyond themselves. I had thought the story was about them, and their success as human beings, not really about Shay's moment in the sun.

[User Picture]
Date:June 14th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Too far in more than one direction

In general, I like Snopes. It's pleasant when you receive a disturbing email and can look it up to confirm that it is false, (though this week I had the almost nightmarish experience of receiving a very upsetting email and discovering, according to Snopes, that it was true!) However, in this case, I just felt that the Snopes person was off base.

As a writer -- and a human being -- I note that your version of the story was much more inspiring than the Snopes version..basically because of the end, which read:

"Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"

This bit really drove the story home! One of the reasons I was so shocked by what the Snopes person wrote when I first read it was that I had not yet realized that the Snopes version did not include this paragraph. I could not imagine how someone could be so cold-hearted as to suggest that a child who died before the year was out should have been taught to 'live with their disability.' In this version, the reaction of the parents show how extraordinary the effort was for the little boy!

Once I realized that the versions were different, I was less alarmed by the Snopes version, but it still seemed like something a person would say if he knew someone with minor or moderate disabilities -- or had seen them on TV.

I spent a few days last week in the Cherubim's class. The children there have no trouble running! But their ability to understand the world around them is quite reduced compared to ours. I could just picture the joy that might shine of the face of some of those little fellows if they were able to run a home run like that. (Not the Cherubim himself. He could not care less about running a home run, but not all of them are as aloof as he.)

I've also seen children -- ages 6, 7, and 8 -- decide to help the Cherubim of their own accord. There is something so kind about them when this happens. That's why I had such a strong image of what the team's reaction would be like and why it would have nothing to do with pity.

(Occasionally, adults who don't know the Cherubim well express pity toward him...but no one who knows him well has ever done so. Why would anyone pity a cherubim? He's got numerous eyes on fiery wings and a pile of dragons, for gosh sake!)

So, thank you for sending the story.

[User Picture]
Date:June 15th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)

Re: Too far in more than one direction

Your post reminds me of a... well, it's a sort of family thing, on my mom's side. It's not that we're *liars*, it's just that when stories start to be told, you can be sure they've been adjusted to have more impact.

So, the story that probably was my mom hitting a badger on a motor bike and it trying to crawl up her leg turns into a hilarious account of her driving, then him driving, then her driving, the him driving.....

Or the pair of uncles who went to Vietnam and can talk about it tell stories of just about every battle that happened in the entire conflict-- not because they want you to think more, but because they're telling the stories they head from their friends, and a first-person narration is much more impressive.

I'd never insist that they were *True*, but I'd have to hurt anyone that called them a lie-- they're stories. Maybe even Stories.
[User Picture]
Date:June 15th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Too far in more than one direction

I think we often don't expect this kind of story to be true per se. It's more what they remind us of...

...and yet, I noticed that when a friend told a simialr kind of story and accidentally wrote it so that we thought it had happen to her, everyone was much more excited and moved by it...because we thought it had actually happened and to someone we knew.

When we realized that she had just sent it on (she had not intended to deceive us,) we lost our enthusiasm for it.
[User Picture]
Date:June 15th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Too far in more than one direction

Different expectations?
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