North Central Iowa Arc

"Another Level of Communication"

In 1980, I had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris,
France.  I am an American, therefore, it was a big deal for me.  I was a
foreign exchange student and I lived in Paris for the school year.  To be in
Notre-Dame was for me to be near God.  All of my life I have always enjoyed
communicating.  For me, learning to speak the language of the country you're
visiting is necessary... to truly understand the people.

In the 1990s the world received the Internet.  Now people can communicate
very quickly and easily.  I exchange e-mails with friends around the world.
Just like foreign language, the personal computer allows us to contact each
other like never before.  It is another level of communication.

It is the same thing when we consider the mentally handicapped.  We need to
live amongst them to really understand them.  For those families with
mentally handicapped, please listen to me...and all others who consider
ourselves "normal"...

The same year, 1980, before traveling to France, like several years before, I
worked during the summer.  I chose to teach the mentally handicapped.

From that moment on, I truly believe that "handicapped" people are not
handicapped at all...

We "normal" people walk too fast, we worry about everything, we are too
serious.  The "handicapped" walk a little slower, but that gives them the
opportunity not only to see but rather to look at life more in
a very calm pond and not in a river that rushes.  We should stop ourselves
for a moment and look at the life that the "handicapped" already know.  In
that world, there is friendship, there are smiles, there is time.  It's
really something...

Like foreign languages and the Internet, it is another level of communication.

Like the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.  For Parisians, it is perhaps not
really special...because it is something "normal" in Paris.  But for me it is
not something "normal" - it is really wonderful.

It is the same thing with "handicapped" people - to have a handicapped friend
is to have a true friend.  A person who truly knows, lives, smiles, walks,
and shares with you...   We the "normal" - I don't believe that we are as
open to other perspectives.

Foreign language, the Internet - they can help us communicate...but the
mentally handicapped - they can help us understand."

Jim Holcombe
Cedar Rapids, IA

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