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The 'Saturday Night Live' Skit That Nailed the Issue With Those Viral Disability Stories

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I have no idea how to work our TV… so I have to ask my children to leave it on every Saturday evening so I can watch “Saturday Night Live.”  I often wonder if I watch it because it is the only time I don’t have someone whining at me that it’s their turn. Last night between forcing my eyes to stay open and shoving a handful of popcorn in my mouth SNL aired this skit:

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This is a spoof of something that goes on all the time, and SNL nails it. Hear me out on this one…

About a month ago, I read this headline: “Undefeated Wrestler Loses to Rival With Special Needs, Makes His Dreams Come True.

Once I moved through being perplexed as to why a star wrestling champion would have a lifelong goal of losing to someone with special needs, I realized what it really said. Which I found equally as perplexing and disturbing.

Since this has been so fresh on my mind recently I wondered, is the problem more about narcissistic people who want attention for being  decent human beings or is the problem more a media and journalism issue? I pondered this just a bit last week as well when I blogged about Donna, a fast food worker who treated my child with a severe language disorder and autism just like any other patron. In our case, Donna is completely unsuspecting that so many people now know and respect her because of her act — and it truly was an act that occurs far less in our world than one might think.

The sensationalizing of reporting overly heroic gestures to include those with special needs is a reflection of our world. Hollow good deeds and instantaneous 15 minutes of fame is raising the wrong kind of awareness… but it sure makes people feel good and it garners thousands of clicks.

Please do not misunderstand. Us parents are caught up in a catch-22 vortex. Watching my son join in a neighborhood kickball game only to see the 9-year-old neighbor run just slightly slower to retrieve the ball as my son runs to his base is amazing. But he does run to get the ball and he has gotten my son out sometimes. The difference is that it’s not a one-time thing. My son can be told “see you tomorrow” as an invitation to join in again. And that 9-year-old isn’t walking around to his friends saying, “Wasn’t that so nice of me?” — at least not in front of my son or the rest of the world to be overheard turning a regular experience into a charitable yet humiliating one.

I love the idea of having my little guy being an equal part of the game… I even love the idea of the kind gesture of a child making him feel special during that game. I don’t like the idea of him being seen as charity or a headline because of it.

And that is all. Thank you, SNL and Jonah Hill, for showing how ridiculous that is. Go Tigers.

Follow this journey on Running Through Water.

Originally published: March 6, 2016
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