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How I was reminded of compassion I forgot about

November 17, 2011

Years ago, I worked for the Montanari Residential Center in Hialeah, Florida. It was a slag heap of mentally retarded, autistic, and mentally disturbed children. I use the word children cautiously, some of these kids looked like they were twelve and were 32. They were on so much medication their turds would clog the toilets. In fact, it was difficult to tell who they were apart from the side effects of their medication. When they became unmanageable, it was called “acting out” and was usually adjusted with medication, sometimes enough Thorazine that would have put a yak to sleep.

Well, I worked with them all, and I said to a co-worker, “I don’t like working with the mentally retarded. What’s the point of teaching them to tie their shoes when they do it and walk into a wall?”

He said, “They know when they’re not treated well.”

That hit me. It was real. I forgot about the power of kindness and love. I had dismissed them as object and he reminded me they were alive and I wasn’t.

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