Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why Isn’t My Heart Being Warmed?

Here’s a story that’s supposed to lift your spirits.

At the end of a high school football game, the coach of the team that was being blown out calls a time-out to ask the other team’s coach privately to have his players let an autistic kid catch a pass.  He'd been practicing with his team all year without ever getting into a game.  The opposing coach, with the enthusiastic support of all of his players, happily agreed not only to let the kid catch the pass, but to run 60 yards for a touchdown after he caught it. The players on both sides apparently did a pretty good job of making it look like an authentic play--they played their parts convincingly enough, it seems, to fool the autistic kid into thinking in the heat of the moment that he was really scoring a touchdown. When he raised his arms in triumph crossing the goal line, there wasn’t a dry eye in the cheering crowd.

I don’t doubt for a moment that all of this was well-intentioned or that it’s worthwhile for people to go out of their way to promote the self-esteem of handicapped kids. But am I crazy to think that, despite their best intentions, the people in on this ruse were grotesquely assaulting this kid’s dignity? It’s not like he won’t figure out what was going on--he’s a senior in high school who aspires to be a football player! Is he really going to be cheered by the memory of his having been snookered into momentarily thinking he’d really managed to accomplish something when everyone on the field and in the crowd but him knew that he hadn’t?

We should promote the self-esteem of handicapped kids because they might not realize that they’re genuinely estimable, not because we're looking for some self-esteem of our own.

No comments: