Celebrating Our Differences

“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.”
- M. Scott Peck

Photo by Annette Rousel

Photo by Annette Rousel

This is about my son, the one I call ‘The Junior General’ and who refers to himself as ‘Just Plain Sam’.

But this is about more than just my son, as special as he is to us; it is about the people we live with, who work, play and share with us in our community. And it is about how celebrating our differences defines us as individuals and people.

Today was a special day for ‘Just Plain Sam’. Today was the first time in his life that Sam was selected to run for his school in a cross-country meet – the first time he had worn the Hillcrest Central School jersey.

Now, for those who know Sam, you know where I am going with this, but for those who have never met our son he is special in two unique ways. Sam has Asperger Syndrome, a higher form of autism that gives him brilliance of thought without the ability to communicate like other 9 year olds. And Sam has asthma, starting each day with a round of steroids and inhalers.

So you can see why today was special.

Sam is lucky though, to be surrounded by people who think he is pretty special. Ms. Debbie, Mr. Eric and especially Ms. Annette, not to mention the 100 odd other children in the school who have played big brother or sister on the playground.

The race was in Kincardine at the golf course, an up and down run near the lake, in and out of the wind. I worried. His Mom worried. Ms. Annette grinned and said he would do fine. I reminded her I was home with puffers ready.

I watched the bus pull away, one small boy looking out the window amongst a busload of excited children.

A couple hours later my Gmail blipped, an email from Annette, simply “Sam was really excited!” and the picture you see above. I smiled, gulped and grimaced. And checked the clock constantly for 3 o’clock when I could head for the school.

More emails followed, pictures of Sam running, Sam checking out the flowers along the course, a picture of Sam nearing the finish line, snippets of his special day, always smiling.

Sam had some problems on the course, his wind letting him down on the uphill climbs, eventually accepting a bit of a ride from the race director when the hill got too steep. Placing was not important, finishing was.

Eventually he reached the finish line, long after the gold, silver and bronze gazelles. And there, cheering him on were his classmates, no wait, not just his classmates but ALL the children from all the schools!

How we celebrate our differences defines us as individuals and people. It is too easy in this world to label people by their different skin colour, orientation and religion. Thank you Ms. Annette and all the children for making this a special day for Sam!

And reminding the rest of us how important our differences are to us all!