When I was growing up, one Sunday every May my dad would wake up really early. He would go to Dunkin' Donuts and get several dozen doughnuts. He would then drive to a school parking lot and board a bus full of students bound for whichever local high school was hosting that year's Special Olympics.
I am proud to say that my dad was the coach of a team of Olympians.
When my brother and I were old enough, we would join him. To us it was a really fun day - a festival - with face painting and sports and free Happy Meals for lunch. Many times we ended up with some pretty awesome sunburns. The fact that the athletes were disabled was never an issue.
For the athletes it was a day to feel decidedly not special - to feel like one of the crowd. They all fit in and I was the outsider, not that I ever felt that way. I felt special to be included in a magical experience.
From these annual trips I learned many lessons. Most importantly how fantastic it feels to give and receive a genuine smile and to treat and be treated with respect.
Recently LP has become fascinated with the handicap spots at stores. When she doesn't see the blue signs she gets mad at the store for not having them, "What if someone has a broken leg? Where will they park?!" My little advocate - already looking out for others. Wonder where she learned that from.
And thanks, Dad.