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Some years ago, native Texan Tony Welty turned away from the corporate world and became an Anglican priest. The associate rector of Saint George's in Nashville has now penned his first book—a slender and deeply moving children's title that will rock your world if you let it.

Books for siblings or parents of children with special needs often fail to capture our imagination in their clinical focus on therapy, outcomes, and life strategies. Welty's story about a buck-toothed, cross-eyed butterfly boarding the bus on the first day of school packs an emotional wallop for a book that can be read in the time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn.

"It only took a moment / For Lonnie [the driver] to realize / The something very special / In Ricardo's criss-crossed eyes," Welty writes. "Here was one who would love / Love fiercely to the end. / In all the world one wouldn't find / A better, best good friend."

As the father of a child with Down syndrome, many times I have watched perplexed adults and children attempt to interact with my son, Mathias, only to see the situation transformed when he embraces the moment, proclaiming: "Love you!"

Ricardo, in his passion for life, poses a great challenge to Christians. How best can we include an exceptional person into the mission of the church? How can we view him or her as a contributor and not just a client who needs services? Welty's vision embodied in the fierce love of Ricardo points us to a new pathway.



Related Elsewhere:

Ricardo the Fierce is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.

Other reviews of books about mental disabilities include:

Looking for the 'I' | What happens to the self when the brain is injured or malformed? (Books & Culture, August 1, 2003)
Idiots, Imbeciles, Cretins ...
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January 2007

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