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Los Angeles, CA, United States


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reality Check

Have you ever gone somewhere and experienced something beautiful and at the same time made you think. I had one of those experiences last night.  I saw the beauty of life and the purity of heart and unbridled joy as I was graciously invited to attend a charity event by my neighbor.  The theme was Luau and my neighbor was going to do a hula dance.

I was working outdoors all day and lost track of time.  I got done around 6:15 and her dance was at 7:00 pm.  I jumped in the shower, threw on my hawaiian shirt and flip flops and was out the door by 6:45.  Unfortunately, the event was just outside DTLA and not exactly freeway close.  As we were driving, my wife tells me that she forgot the tickets and to turn around.  I said no.  I'll talk us in and explain what happened.  For some reason, it was important for me to be there when my neighbor danced. Why? I'm not exactly sure.  Was it the excitement she exuded when she invited us and we agreed?  Was it the constant reminders this week like, "the event starts @ 6 and I'm dancing at 7" as I coming and going from my driveway.  I have no idea.

So we got there at 7:05.  Fortunately, they were having technical difficulties so we didn't miss anything.  The people at the ticket counter were totally cool as I explained that we forgot our tix and if they need verification, I told them that I can get my neighbor's family to vouch for us or send the tickets with our neighbor on Monday.  They said don't worry and let us in.  We walked in and saw our neighbor and her family and got hugs all around.  We were told then that our neighbor won't be dancing as they had too many participants.  The wife and I were disappointed but our neighbor seemed to take it well and it didn't bother her one bit.

My neighbor is a student at East Los Angeles Remarkable Citizens Association.  This organization provides services for developmentally disabled adults.  I have to admit, I'm a bit old school and political correctness is a bit foreign to me.  The other night I mentioned to some friends that I'm going to an event for the Mentally Retarded.  I was immediately corrected that term, "mentally retarded," is no longer used.  The pc term now used was "special needs."  Now that's a pretty broad based term so I googled, "proper term for mentally retarded."  Lots of websites popped up including Yahoo answers with lot's of different comments.  One site says the proper term is "special needs." Other sites listed, "developmentally disabled," "developmentally delayed," and "intellectually disabled."  Now it's getting a little confusing but the consensus was that mentally retarded or mentally handicapped were outdated terms.  Then I came upon an article in the Washington Post about President Obama signing into law a bill that mandates that federal statutes replace mental retardation with the term intellectual disability.
So if the prez says it's so, I'm with it so no more stupid comments from me quoting the movie Hangover or using mentally retarded.

So at the event last night, the DJ lost power so the staff improvised and brought our a boom box.  The instructor brought out the dancers and lined them up in formation.  You can see the excitement building up within them.  After getting them into position, the music started and the dancing began.  It was immediately apparent that some of the dancers knew what they were doing while others were just a tad bit off with their timing as they tried to copy the better dancers.  The moves were choreographed to classic hawaiian tunes like Tiny Bubbles and a song that I thought was from the C&H Sugar commercial.  They danced to about 5 different tunes and each dance was as different as the song.  The smiles, the joy, the unbridled excitement of performing was pervasive throughout the recital.  If there was ever a better example of purity of heart, I've yet to experience.  These intellectually disabled adults were into it.  It doesn't matter that one went left while the other went right. The folks were in the moment and loving it.

It was a thing of beauty.

Could the secret of life be as simple as living in the moment?  Could joy be attained by just doing it without the fear of not being perfect?  How much needless stress goes into wondering what others think and adjusting behavior or look just to impress or at least get by?  I'm not saying lose all sense of decorum and be free like they did in the 70's.  I'm just pondering how much time and thought is used up worrying about appearance and what others think that we forget to live in the moment?  Or how easy it is to be on the other side and talk smack about others instead of just accepting people for who they are and enjoying them.

It makes me wonder who really are the "intellectually disabled."


  1. Sometimes I walk around in pity for myself when really, things are that simple! Yesterday my son was at work with me and he just sat around and watched me work and checked out the whole warehouse moving project and later declared it was the best day ever!
    Note to self: Make time to stop and smell the roses and look up at the sky and appreciate the beautiful day I have been given and stop feeling sorry for myself damn it!
    I too wonder who really are the "intellectually disabled"!

  2. Dear PC,
    thanks for sharing another example of "kids say the darndest things." It's great to hear the perspective of a young one. They see things in their most basic form. Thank you for reading and for commenting.