Personal Dragons
Sue Saladino (5/23/2000)
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a mighty king. His kingdom was protected by an army of brave knights. Sir Strong, had great strength. Sir Smart had incredible intelligence and Sir Brave had unsurpassed bravery. Each and every knight seemed to possess a unique talent. These knights were favored by the king.

There was also another group of knights. These knights were not as big, or as strong, or as brave as the other knights. The favored knights looked down on them and teased them. They called them "special," but not because they admired their uniqueness. They used it as a term of ridicule. The "special" knights were not allowed to join in the meetings, banquets or classes with the favored knights. They attended their own meetings, banquets and classes, separate from the other knights.

Three of the "special" knights were tired of being separated from the other knights. They were tired of being told that they were not as good or didn't measure up to the others. People didn't realize how unhappy they were, because people believed that "special" knights should feel happy to have a place in the kingdom at all.

The first "special" knight was Sir Down syndrome. He had beautiful green eyes with crystal flecks that could see into your soul. The second of the "special" knights was
Sir Autism, who had very precise ways of doing things. Always making sure that everything was just right. The last was Sir Vegetable. He was the smallest and
the youngest of the "special" knights. He was blessed with a fighting spirit and a survivor's will. All were brave, loving and pure of heart.

The favored knights did not see these attributes. They believed the "special" knights were cursed by an evil witch. They did not see sparkling eyes -- they saw a funny slant to them. They did not see precise planning -- they saw strange habits. They did not see inner strength -- they saw outward weakness. They only saw the "special" knights as strange, slow and stupid. It was how they chose to see them -- as different. What they did not realize is that the "special" knights were not cursed by an evil witch, but chosen by God, to teach others the virtues of patience, acceptance, perseverance and love. Despite all their talents, these were things the favored knights knew nothing about.

A fierce dragon had been terrorizing the kingdom. He frightened the people with his fierce roar and breath of fire. Each knight had taken a turn trying to slay him. Sir
Smart had used all his brains but could not defeat the dragon. Even Sir Strong's incredible strength could not help. Sir Brave also failed.

The three "special" knights wanted to have a chance to slay the dragon. The favored knights laughed and laughed. How could such small, weak knights succeed where they had failed? The king, who liked the "special" knights, felt they would not be able to handle such a difficult assignment. He was worried that they might get hurt or lost.

Our heroes would not be deterred. They set off to find the dragon on their own. They carried no weapons, relying only on their unique talents. The "special" knights knew one thing the favored knights did not. They knew no one knight could bring down such a
dangerous dragon. They knew they had to work together, each using their unique gifts. Sir Autism would plan the perfect strategy to corner the dragon. Sir Down syndrome would use his empathy to find the dragon's weak point. Sir Vegetable would us his keen survival instinct to keep them all safe.

It did not take long for Sir Autism, with his superior planning skills to find the dragon's lair. Sir Vegetable devised the safest way to approach the dragon. Now, it was up to Sir Down syndrome to find the monster's weak point. He came face to face with the fiercest dragon he had ever seen!

"Dragon," he asked nervously, "why do you terrorize our kingdom with your loud roar and fiery breath?"

"Why do you send vicious knights to slay me?" asked the dragon. "I do not mean to scare anyone. I am a dragon. Dragons roar loudly and breathe fire. It is not my fault I am what I am. I will always be a dragon and cannot change it."

The "special" knights thought about the dragon's answer. They had often felt the same way. It was not their fault that the were the way the were. They couldn't change what they were.

"I would like to be your friend, but you must accept me for the way I am," said the dragon.

His plight touched the hearts of the "special" knights because it was very similar to their own.

"Dragon, we will accept you," said Sir Autism.

"And we would be glad to be your friends!" added Sir Vegetable.

The dragon agreed to travel back to the kingdom with the "special" knights to share what they had all discovered. The king was very surprised to see the "special" knights come back alive. He was even more surprised to see they had the dragon with them! The "special" knights told of their adventure and the king, being a very wise king, understood the lesson immediately.

Dragons are only dragons. Fear and segregation are our true enemies.

"Sir Down syndrome, Sir Autism and Sir Vegetable, you three together have accomplished what my best knights could not do. You have tamed a fierce dragon and brought peace to our kingdom. You are true heroes and your names will live on in history forever!", declared the king.

"Please, your Highness," said Sir Down syndrome, "Down syndrome is not my name, but a label given me by people who did not really know me. My real name is  Zack and I would like to be known as Zack from now on."

"Yes, your Majesty," said Sir Autism, "Autism is the label I was given. My real name is Matt and I like it much better."

"And I, noble king, was given the label Vegetable because people believed that I was useless like a vegetable. My real name is Alex," said Sir Vegetable.

"Henceforth", said the king, making a royal decree, "People in this kingdom will be no longer labeled. They will be valued for who and what they are. All people shall be known as "special", not in ridicule because of their differences, but in recognition of their unique talents. Everyone shall be welcome at our meetings, banquets and classes. No one will be segregated!"

His words were met with a mighty cheer from the crowd and a loud roar from a now friendly dragon.

If this were a fairy tale, everyone would now live happily ever after. Unfortunately, not all stories end that way. Some in the kingdom could still not see the value in others. Some refused to see it -- others simply were not capable of letting go of old stereotypes. These are the people who deserve our pity. The truly heroic among us work, even to this day, to educate those who will not see and promote acceptance among all people in our kingdoms. We open doors, knock down barriers and destroy false ideas. With each small success we spread a little  "happiness ever after." I think Sir Zack, Sir Matt and Sir Alex would be proud!

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