I work for a very large school district in a major East Coast city. I go to schools and see things that alternate between gut busting hilarity and heart breaking sadness, and often the two mix together to the point where you can hardly tell the difference. Which sees to be par for the course when you’re dealing with inner city education.
A couple of days ago I was in school that was hosting a summer program for high needs special education kids. I’m sitting at a table auditing payroll when an enormous 350 pound autistic kid rumbles into the bathroom across the hall with his teacher/handler in tow. Ten minutes later his teacher comes out, with a stricken look on his face. The kind of look that says “my student shit himself and then smeared fecal matter everywhere.” While the teacher is talking to the principal and the facilities staff, the kid bolts from the bathroom, covered in his own shit. He’s non verbal, so what ever he’s trying to communicate comes out as a grunt and he jogs down the hall. Eventually staff corale him and put him back in the bathroom, because there is no where else to put him.
Of course, there are no spare pants in the building that would fit him, and his guardians didn’t pack a spare set. Which is surprising because I’m sure this isn’t a rare incident. So they keep this kid in the bath room, where he would occaisionally burst out of, naked from the waist down, gesturing to no one, or everyone. Who knows? Staff would gently push him back into the bathroom.
At some point a pair of burgundy lady’s stirrup pants were found that would fit him. The day continued without incident.
Sometimes I worry that I don’t go to the gym enough. Or that I don’t have the time or the passion to reach the goals I set for myself or that others set for me. It’s easy for me to get caught up in self doubt.
But then I think about that kid. Shunted off into a bathroom, covered in shit. Stuffed into a pair of stirrup pants. His mind seemingly not his own. What’s worse is that his every move seems to require supervision from a qualified adult. A handler, if you will; like some sort of circus bear. Absolutely zero independence.
It’s certainly a cliche and more than a little reductive to use this kid as a reminder of what’s good in my life, and conversely, what’s bad about his. But even so, it’s important to remember that I’m a healthy individual who has complete freedom to pursue whatever I choose to do, and not worry about the bull shit.
I’ma let my freak flag fly.