Tonight ABC debuts its movie A Smile as Big as the Moon. At least one of the actors in it has Down syndrome, Peter ten Brink. Maybe some of the others portraying students in a special ed class do also, but I'm not sure.
I haven't seen it, but I'm hopeful, partly for part of the dialogue quoted by a friend of mine:
“I’ve worked with special needs kids for far too long to romanticize their accomplishments. There are no simple solutions for any of them. These are basically good kids who’ve been dealt a bad hand. They live their lives on the margins. Their classroom is a metaphor for their existence. It’s out of the way at the far end of the basement. It’s like a cell block with bad air, bad light, no windows to the outside world. And outside the classroom, not much is asked of them nor is much expected. Can they try your patience? Yes, they can. And do they sometimes break your heart? Yes sir, they certainly do. But there are times – remarkable moments…when more is asked of them and more is expected of them. And they rise to the occasion, gratefully, gladly, just to remind you of the remarkable power of the human spirit."
The Regent School's fifth-graders came out to volunteer (for the third time this year) on Friday. As I gave them my talk about the Ranch I told them, "Regent School started the same time Down Home Ranch started, and for the same reasons.
Your parents and Jerry and I and our Ranchers' parents. we all want the same thing for our kids--not a good place, not even an excellent place, but an AMAZING place that makes sure you get a chance to live the best, most important, and most fulfilling life you can live."
I'm heartened by the dialog quoted above that this won't be another sappy feel-good movie that romanticizes Down syndrome and others with disabilities. Our kids are members of the human race, with all the attendant joys, anxieties, fulfillments, and periods of desperation. Like us, they are sometimes pleasant, and sometimes less so. One minute we are ready to fall down in adoration of them and in the next to throw up our hands in utter exasperation.
Most of us parents, though, wind up sharing the sentiments of the Garth Brooks' song The Dance...
"Our lives are better left to chance; I could have missed the pain,
but I'd have had to miss the dance."