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During the summer of 2002, while I was pulling weeds in the front yard of my house, some kids stopped by to offer to help. I didn't ask them to, but we got to talking. They soon realized that I'm a fairly cool guy, and soon they and two more of their brothers were visiting for a while most every day.
I don't they were overly thrilled that I used to be a teacher, because any time one or more of them would ask for a can of pop or tea or lemonade, I'd ask each of them to name three states, or three towns, or three kinds of birds, or three Presidents, or three countries, etc! But they dealt with it and we got along very well.
The oldest of them is a boy named Jeremy, aged twelve. When I first started doing the 'three' business, I had noticed that he took longer than the others to get his answers. I soon started making sure that he got a chance to name his before the others, because after nine states have already been named, naming three more can be hard!
A common summer hobby of mine is to walk around in a huge forest preserve which is nearly adjacent to my house. We often would up doing follow the leader out in those woods. Everyone always had fun!
Jeremy liked that I would "challenge" him and that I would always be extremely patient for him to answer. If one of his little brothers would get impatient with him, I would make sure he was last in giving his answers to something harder, like countries. When he was struggling with the tenth, eleventh and twelfth countries, I would harass him about how long it was taking him! And then I'd remind him that that was how he made Jeremy feel when he tried to hurry him.
In any case, Jeremy started to really realize that I "believed in him!" There were also times when just he and I would go walking out in the woods, and I would tell him that I was lost and he would have to get us back to town somehow. The first time I did that he panicked! But I helped a little, suggesting that he listen for sounds of the town and of a noisy company there or that he look for a stream that flows through the woods. Each time I would do that same scenario, he would get better and better at quickly developing a plan and getting us back to known areas! I was always very proud of him, and I told him so! In those experiences, I helped him learn that moss grows on the north side of trees and the noon sun is in the south sky, and he would use such ideas in later times of "being lost".
Between these and many other similar things, I came to realize that he often took longer than usual to form a plan, but he always figured one out. Even when I would add in new and unexpected circumstances. Occasionally, he showed moments of solid insight, and I always told him that I thought he was smart.
Much later, I was to discover that I was probably the only person ever in his life that ever gave him ANY compliments!
Near the end of the Summer, one day when only he was around, he seemed worried. I asked why and he said that he was about to start a new school, a long way away. I eventually asked why, because my experience is that, unless a family moves, the only reasons a child changes schools is if the parents decide to send him to something like a military school or a previous school insists that he go somewhere else. I didn't really want to pry, but I was curious which was the case.
His response to my question was one of the most chilling things I have ever heard! After a long pause, he said that he knows that everyone has a "gift". (I was fine with that.) Then he said that his "gift" was that he was retarded!
I was so shocked that I couldn't even formulate anything to say for a while. My blood was boiling that some adult had taught him such an evil concept. Sure, all kids call each other dumb and stupid and all the rest. But for a kid to be calmly explaining to me that he was changing schools because his "gift" was that he was retarded, WOW! How DARE any adult tell something like that to a kid?
From my point of view, it was worse! I had discovered that he could think through things, that he could come up with solid logic! No "retarded kid" could do that!
After I gathered my thoughts, I tried to mention the times when he figured out how to get us out of the woods, and all the other things he had figured out around me. And that I had mentioned a number of times where I was proud of him and that he was smart.
Home page is at http://mb-soft.com/cwalk/