This week of Dec. 10-14, the four secondary schools in Botetourt County are celebrating a week of kindness in honor of Rachel’s Challenge. The Botetourt View listed events that occur at the schools each day. Alexis Warman won the Rachel’s Challenge essay contest at Lord Botetourt High School. All of the entrants are pictured with her. The event culminates on Friday Dec. 14 at the LBHS-JRHS boys basketball game with fun events beginning at 5 p.m.
Here is Warman’s story:
” Once upon a time, when I was little, I met a man named Merl. I knew from the start that he wasn’t like everybody else. He was middle aged when I first laid eyes on him, but his actions contradicted. I distinctively remember on a football Sunday, my dad’s family all gathered at my grandfather’s house. As soon as Merl arrived, all the smaller children hid under the pool table yelling, “Watch out, he gives sloppy kisses!” or “get away, he’s weird.”
That was the first odd thing I realized about him. People reacted as if they’d never seen a man before. It never really made any sense in my mind; he didn’t appear to be any different from anyone else.
It took me a while to understand him. He couldn’t preform basic tasks on his own such as brushing his teeth, or washing dishes. Everything he thought was difficult, I found easy, and everything I found difficult he saw it as impossible. He was living with a friend for a while, but he became too much to handle and he moved in with my Grammy and Grampy.
A couple months after he moved in, my dad, sister, and I traveled to Maine to visit my grandparents. When we arrived at their house, he was sitting quietly on the couch in the living room, minding his own business. My dad and sister sparked a conversation with my grandparents, but something about Merl that day caught my eye. Although I had met and seen him at other family gatherings, that day was different.
When my dad spoke to him, it seemed as if he were talking to a child or a pet. It made me angry. Merl slurred his words occasionally, and he was difficult to understand at times. Despite that, he was a grown adult and everybody else didn’t seem to know that. Being only eight at the time, I tried to be his friend. At eight years old, anyone and everyone was my friend. He had a hard time speaking, and it occasionally took him a few moments to respond. My dad looked at me, puzzled, as we left their house.
“So how was Merl? You seemed to be enjoying yourself.”
My dad seemed almost sarcastic in his tone, and it angered me once more. I nodded my head, barely acknowledging his question.
My dad explained to me that Merl was once a normal boy like anybody else. He told me that he was leaning against a car when he was about eight years old. His shirt was caught, and the driver drove several blocks, fifty miles per hour, before realizing Merl was being dragged. He suffered major brain damage and he can no longer live on his own.
Without knowing it, Merl taught me at a young age that being different doesn’t mean he had to be treated different. I saw him like anybody else, and now many other people do too. Now he is no longer a burden to many, but a friend ever after.”
She is from Blue Ridge and is a creative writing student in a class taught by Bruce Ingram.