I would like to send out some love today to the members of our families, churches, communities, and the world, who are mentally disabled.
I have been fortunate enough at different times in my life to be able to get to know and work with people with a variety of different mental disabilities. I volunteered a couple of times as a “Special Friend” at Camp Joy. (My sister is blessed enough to still be able to do that each summer.) I worked with children in a classroom setting when I was studying Music Therapy. I also worked one-on-one after school as a tutor for a sweet little boy for the majority of my college career. It is a dream of mine to become involved with a theatre program for the mentally disabled, much like Carolina Actors with Special Talents (C.A.S.T.), which is headed by the amazingly talented Debra Leopard. Here’s a news clip from a few years ago. I was fortunate to get to see this show! There is something so precious and special about each and every person I have known who is living with a mental disability, and there is so much that I have learned from my relationships with them as well.
Today is a day set aside to raise awareness about a movement to end the use of the r-word. The Spread The Word To End The Word movement was started by a group of young people, and is now backed by the Special Olympics, Best Buddies International, and over 200 other organizations. The goal is to eliminate the minority slur “retard” or “retarded” from casual speech and legal and professional verbiage.
When I was younger I, like many people, used the r-word quite often in casual conversation, usually to describe something that was out of place, or just plain stupid. I never intended any offense to the mentally disabled, and quite frankly, I don’t think they ever entered my mind. I had no clue that my words might be hurtful and offensive to others.
Now that I know better, there is no excuse! The use of the r-word is offensive to our brothers and sisters in of the mentally disabled community, much like the n-word is to our brothers and sisters in the black community. While we have come a long way in eliminating the use of the n-word, we still have a long way to go to get rid of the r-word.
I issue you a challenge today. If you use the r-word, no matter how well your intentions, stop. If you have already made the decision to not use the r-word, I encourage you to take some time today to Spread The Word To End The Word.