I think people basically assumed I was retarded, growing up. I lived in a world all my own, and there were no words to tell anyone what that world is like. Until I met a beautiful spiritual teacher who showed me the way.
When I was seven I played with a little girl named Kelly, who was by all physical accounts a “normal” little girl, but she didn’t communicate in the same way as her peers. She was non-verbal, and made grunting noises instead.
One day Kelly and I were running up and down the slide at the playground located on the grounds of the apartment complex we both lived in. A few little boys tried making conversation with her, and then with me. We both chose not to reply to their taunts and inappropriate questions, such as “Hey, are you a retard?!” When we didn’t respond they took things a step further, stepping on our fingers as punishment for offending them in some way we didn’t understand.
Kelly began to cry and wrapped her arms around herself. I comforted her by telling her the little boys didn’t know that we were really princesses. She glared at me. I sat down in the sand with her and told her “I know you’re not retarded. You just talk in your own way.” She dried her eyes, looked at me, smiled, and began to run around and play again.
Later that week her mother held a meeting in her front yard asking her neighbors for ideas on how to stop the bullying Kelly was enduring nearly every time she went out to play. She said something like, “I’m tired of my daughter being bullied because she’s retarded/handicapped.” I could sense Kelly’s misery next to me, and despite my fear (I was very shy as a child) knew I needed to speak up. I raised my hand, and once given permission to share, I said “Kelly doesn’t like being called retarded.”
Kelly looked at me. She waited for what I would say next with wide eyed wonder, but something in her heart shifted. She went from a black storm cloud to feeling “normal” ( a sense of belonging to the greater part of the whole, something we all crave.) All in that instant. One person understanding her inner world made her feel less like a problem, and more like just another person sitting in a yard full of people.
Kelly’s mom blushed from head to toe, and on the inside too. She truly had never realized it hurt her daughters feelings to be labeled, even if in proper medical terms. She giggled a little and asked me, “well, then, what does Kelly like to be called?”
“She likes to be called a princess.” I smiled, glad that Kelly’s message was being heard for the first time in her whole life. I felt like I could breathe easier, and things would be more hopeful from now on. Being an Empath, I was probably picking up Kelly’s feelings as she sat next to me.
The thing people don’t understand about most conditions labeled a mental illness or handicap is that it isn’t really one. I lived in a world nobody understood, and I was never given the tools to know how to express that until much later on in life.
When I spend time with people others call “retards” I know just by being in their inner worlds with them, they are anything but handicapped in any other way than being able to express themselves in the only way we’ve made available.
Their minds are strong and quick, and they feel and sense EVERYTHING. Their inner worlds are rich and meaningful. They aren’t handicapped. They are living in a world most of us haven’t tapped into yet. I hope to own a school for the gifted one day, so that people like Kelly and I, don’t grow up feeling stupid.
We don’t always opt into lives that are easy on us, but we aren’t any less perfect than our peers and we deserve to live on a planet that acknowledges the beauty of an outstanding soul more than they have thus far seemed capable of doing.