The Triumph of Innocence

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(1300 words)

Ron was born with Down syndrome. He is needy and limited but what he has to give to the world is greater than what he needed to receive from it. Yet what Ron has to give cannot be measured in the accepted tools of ‘success’ and ‘benefit’. This story is based on events that happened in real life, though the biographical details are largely imagined. The story is dedicated to all the different, unusual human beings, those who are not under the spotlight, but hidden and marginalized and are not an accepted example of ‘success’, still, without them the world would be a place with far less hope. As in life, Ron is not the hero of our story but only entirely indirectly.

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Mirav is a thin, short girl, but her average physical figure was complemented by her captivating smile. A smile that reveals something optimistic, soft, indulgent, that rests deep in her soul and occasionally unexpectedly emerges from her.

Mirav grew up in a spacious home, wrapped in warmth and attention. Her parents, Yoram and Tova Shechter, always tried, to the best of their ability, to leave the difficulties of the world outside the door of the family home and to give their two children the best they could. Despite this and despite her winning smile, she experienced quite a few difficulties throughout her childhood. After serving in the IDF, she went to study biology at Tel Aviv University, successfully completed a bachelor’s degree but could not find a suitable job, moved between a few temporary jobs before finally taking a sharp turn and traveling to India. She may have decided to complete the teenage rebellion she skipped in her teens.

In India, in the distant mountains, she found a spiritual group and spent a few months in the company of a local guru, no phone, no Internet, no going out. Her caring father flew, hired a car and a local driver, found her and brought her home. Mirav didn’t argue, didn’t get angry, she felt that the experience in India had run its course.

When she returned she wandered around the rooms of her parents’ house, trying to fend off the question marks beamed at her in silence. “What about your future? What about career, studying? Wedding?”

One day she met a guy and got married very quickly. It was a wild love story, and she felt that her life was coming to fruition, that she was on the straight path to the good future that was promised to her as a child, a future that seemed to be guaranteed to every scion of the doomed Shechter dynasty.

But fate (or something else) continued to keep her in the dark. After two years of a failed marriage, she divorced and returned to her parents ‘ home in disgrace. As always, she never lost her optimistic and positive approach, but to her facial features have now been added a few lines of bitter pain and disappointment. Two or three more years passed by. Mirav worked as a receptionist in her father’s fancy office. She worked hard. Her life was a routine of working till five, going out for a night out here and there, television, book in bed, and that’s it. Pretty much.

One day, a hasty, unhappy relationship that ended quickly yielded an unexpected pregnancy. Unusually, she was in no hurry to notify her parents. For many hours she was locked in her room, even absent from work, and at the end of much soul-searching she made a clear decision: to give birth and raise the child herself. Her parents did not initially intervene despite worrying about the effects of her decision on her future. Their attitude changed when they found out the fetus had Down’s syndrome. But Mirav did not change her mind, even strengthening it and standing up to the vigorous protests of almost everyone around her. A kind of new stubbornness she did not recognize and a clear recognition of the right thing to do were born in her, and those feelings added and strengthened her decision.

Ron came to the world. In a gray, uncertain world, that summoned years of hard tackling for Mirav. She moved out of her parents ‘ house and rented a small apartment on the outskirts of Ramat Gan. The boy grew up and over the years changed not only Mirav’s agenda, an agenda largely devoted to him, but changed her from within. Mirav insisted on telling anyone who would listen that this disabled, dependent child so, with his characteristic warmth and giving made her a more complete person than ever.

Ron loved sports, had a desire to prove that he, despite his limitations, was functioning as any other teenager, that he had a right to be an equal partner in society. Mirav supported him all the time, drove him to athletic training, hired a special coach for him.

The day arrived and Ron, in the company of his mother and a special delegation of disabled athletes, boarded a celebratory plane that glided gloriously across the tarmac and soared into a blue sky sculpted by white clouds. They landed in Seattle, where the Paralympics were held. Ron was ecstatic. Everything around him was exciting and new. He constantly pointed to the big model cars he didn’t know, the houses, spotless streets and elaborate training facilities in the Olympic village near the stadium.

The moment came and nine runners, with varying levels of mental disability, stood up at the start line and Ron among them. A kind of stifling fog weighed on him. His excitement was almost greater than he could bear. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the large crowd, and the eyes, all watching him and his friends. Will he be able to live up to their expectations? Somewhere in the crowd, he knew, stood his proud mother, wiping away a tear of excitement, walking, spinning, unable to stand in one place.

Camera flashes pricked the bright daylight, the dark track stretched forward, long and stiff. Ron stepped in his place. A gunshot rang out. He tried to leap but his legs did not respond. One of them hit the track and he fell to the ground, rolled and got bruised. It was hard for him to believe that this was happening to him. He collected his body and limbs in a fetal position, asking only to be buried alive in the ground below the track, never to emerge from it. He began to cry sobs loud and bitter, despairing, uncontrollable.

Suddenly he felt a hand touching his shoulder. Anastasia leaned over him. She was one of the competitors he had met the day before as part of training and preparation for the competition. She suffered from Down’s Syndrome and now smiled with a determination and confidence that for a moment felt like he had passed. Confused, he looked around and saw that it wasn’t just Anastasia here, all the competitors who had set out to race to win and win a medal, stopped when they noticed he was left behind, turned around, and gathered around him- everyone.

“Don’t be sorry,” Anastasia told him, “Now it’s you who will win the competition.”

Someone reached out to him, helped him up, and all the competitors walked, one tight-knit group across the track, to the finish line and crossed it together, accompanied by the roars of the large crowd that had all stood up. Not a single eye was left dry.

A defining moment was born and granted to the world, and the moment will never die, continue to roll, come back and be told by word of mouth, from one to another, carrying with it great hope.

 

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