By Madison Cotton, intern
Six years ago I attended the Special Olympics hosted annually on my school’s football field. I didn’t know anything about it aside from my duties and what time I was going to leave. As I stood by the track, waiting for the opening ceremony, the only thing I could do was complain how hot it was to my friends. Soon enough as the music started playing and the Olympians made their way down the track, a strange feeling came over me. I don’t know exactly what it was, I can only describe it as a swelling feeling in my chest. I held my hand out, offering high-fives to everyone that walked by. People of all ages passed me, slapping my outstretched hand joyfully. The excitement and anticipation was enough to make me grin from ear to ear.
For a 6th grader who knew nothing about kids with special needs, helping out in the Special Olympics was truly eye-opening. I was so ignorant to what it means to be someone with special needs. I always thought “special needs” meant someone who couldn’t do anything for themselves, and was miserable all the time because of it. Not only was I surprised by the participants’ determination, I was touched by their thoughtfulness and happy demeanors. Everyone was so positive, even those who didn’t get first place. There was always someone to offer a tight hug, a pat on the back and kindest words from the purest hearts. The book The Boy Who Saved My Life by Earle Martin reminded me of the Special Olympics. Earle talks about raising his autistic grandson, Charlie, and how learning to take care of him taught Earle how to love others and find the bright side of everything. Charlie opened Earle’s eyes to the beauty of the world and inspired his grandfather to live with an open heart and mind.
In the end of The Boy Who Saved My Life, Earle mentions how important it is to find your Charlie. Finding your Charlie means finding someone who needs you so they can open your eyes to things you might not have appreciated before. Charlie helped Earle out of a dark place in his life, and will forever credit his grandson for this. Earle believes wholeheartedly that everyone can benefit from finding their Charlie. The Boy Who Saved My Life reminded me of my learning experience at the Special Olympics. For some examples of places you can look to “find you Charlie,” check out Earle Martin’s book, The Boy Who Saved My Life, available at brightskypress.com. Have you found your Charlie yet?