Mayor Mack's Lobo Letter: May
A few weeks ago I attended the LISD Special Education Track and Field Day. Truth be told, I had a very busy morning that day and it took quite a bit of finagling to be able to attend, but boy am I glad I did. It was one of the most moving experiences I have had as Mayor.
Having a special needs niece with Down Syndrome, probably made the experience a bit more poignant. Alex will start her sophomore year at LHS in the fall, and has been one of our family's most positive life-changing experiences. You haven't really lived until you have watched life through Alex's eyes. Whether that be through her dancing, singing (loudly) or hearing her beautiful, heartfelt prayers. Having Alex in our lives has been one of the most unexpected and amazing blessings that I never could have imagined.
But back to May 13, when I first arrived at Lobo Stadium, I noticed several groups of special education students all lined up on the track in a very orderly fashion — all of which were teeming with excitement and enthusiasm. That very sight buckled my knees.
As each group walked around the track, I noticed many of the children had disabilities. Some could be seen visibly and some could not. A disability is defined as "the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, intellectual, mental, sensory, developmental or some combination of these that results in restrictions on an individual's ability to participate in what is considered normal in their everyday society." This definition led me to ask myself, What is normal?
I believe the society we live in has a skewed viewpoint on normalcy. Because of social media, television, newsprint, magazines — we consider "normal" to be the people we see on the big screens — the rich and famous. But oh, they are so far from normal. More often than not, their lives are filled with deceit, distrust, immorality, and lack of faith.
When I think about the struggles these young people face on a day-to-day basis, my "normal" needs a reality check. The sheer effort for these students to get out of bed, to take a shower, get dressed, comb their hair... the preparation time it takes them to do what I do every day causes me to pause. And not just effort to do the everyday things that we all take for granted; but then to show up on a track to compete, give it your best, and to be the sunshine for all in attendance.
I would be remiss if I did not recount the Lobo football players who escorted each group around the track. I watched as they carried their classmates; sometimes emotionally with encouraging words and sometimes even physically by carrying those who otherwise would not have been able to participate without being carried in their arms. The cheerleaders and Viewettes were on hand as well — celebrating not only the day, but the lifetime of accomplishments experienced by their peers. It was a day of glory for each participant. As well as a day of joy for each spectator.
Some might argue that such an event does not have educational value. I would argue that much learning did occur — especially for a guy like me. To really take a step back, and think about the love that exists when you do something for someone who cannot possibly do it for themselves or ever repay you. Is there any greater lesson than to learn to give without expecting something in return? Thank you, Longview Lobos, for reminding me of one of life's most important lessons.
This day belonged to those kids who competed with their all. The gleam in their eyes and the joy in their smile, the sense of accomplishment in their sweat — evidence of effort was everywhere. As each one crossed the finish line, they became Champions. Once a Champion, always a Champion.
I was and am proud to be Lobo alumni — once a Lobo, always a Lobo.
— Dr. Andy Mack is a 1978 graduate of Longview High School. A maxillofacial surgeon for more than 25 years, he is currently owner-operator of East Texas Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Longview.
Previous Lobo Letters:
• January 2016