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My friend Matt

Ray Augenstein

Ray Augenstein

When Matthew was born, it was easy to see, there was something different about him. He didn’t react the same as other babies, and seemed to be developing at a slower pace.

After extensive tests by Doctors and Specialist, it was determined that Matthew was mentally challenged. Matthew’s body grew normally, but his mind only reached the level of an 8 year old.

Matthew had no enemies, only friends he had never met. If you said hello to him you were instantly his friend. He couldn’t conceive of anyone being mean or vicious. If someone made fun of him he would join in on the laughter.

Whenever I would visit his parents, he would meet me at the door, and loudly proclaim “My buddy’s here”.  He would then, as he had countless times before, proudly show me his collection of toy cars, and music cassettes.

He loved Music and he had his favorite singers, who he would try to imitate as he sang along. Matthew may have been different, but there was no denying his love.

I have known children who had Down’s syndrome, and have found them to be much the same as Matthew. They have a capacity for love which no other person seems to possess. Of course thy have their moments of frustration, especially if something disrupts their routine without an opportunity to make adjustment.

People who have Down’s syndrome don’t want to be stared at, made fun of or treated any differently. Maybe they can’t function as well as others without Down’s, but they usually can function.

There are different levels of Down’s and/or mentally challenged persons. Some may function on the level of a 3 year old while some are more like a teenager.

I had a brother who, because of Oxygen deprivation while being born suffered brain trauma. Some people called him retarded, he may have been a little slow, but I never noticed the difference. He was my brother and all he wanted was to be accepted and liked. He had a hard time in school, where they sent him to special Ed. He grew tired of it and left school.

There are many people who are blessed with a Special person in their life. I know they don’t think their charge is a throwaway. I know many, who go the extra mile to make life for that person a special one. There are Special Olympics, and other activities to keep them challenged and evolved. I have seen, a broadcast of a special Olympic event where one of the runners fell, and started crying, the leader, who would have won handily stopped, turned around and went back to help his friend. To the surprise of everyone watching the event, all of the runners surround the hurt one and together they crossed the line as one.   Maybe they aren’t so challenged after all. Maybe it’s the normal who fight and claw their way to get on top. Those who want to win at all costs, that are the challenged.  Whenever I see a Down’s syndrome individual, I just smile, and say to myself there goes someone who has been touched by God in way’s we cannot imagine.

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