Each of us at one time or another has encountered a bit of teasing - some of us more than our fair share. But a few of our neighbors continually endure verbal and phsyical punches.

Kathy Edwards, director of Recreation and Habilitation Services, says some of her students have been so distressed over the amount of teasing and downright meanness directed at them that they decided to form a suicide pact. Some nearly carried it through.After years and years of taunting, tormenting and ridiculing, these young adults felt it would be better to leave this life than endure it, Edwards said. They don't see an end to it.

For many of these men and women - who not by their own choice must deal with varying handicaps - the continual hounding and teasing can be devastating.

Edwards has noted on several occasions when they have taken RAH groups to stadium events or other large gatherings, people will actually get up and move to another location. That's beside the frequent stares and strange glances from onlookers.

On the bus, in the mall, walking down the street, people step aside. And while most of these students are happy, friendly and outgoing, they are often met with looks of disgust or embarrassament toward them.

"Why do people do that?" I asked.

"Some fear that they'll get what the person has, that disabilities are communicable," Edwards said.

"To some in the community, it's repulsive to look at them. Others are just embarrassed by their condition," she added. "Sometimes it goes completely the other way, and people get all gushy and say `Aw, aren't they special?' "

They are special.

Many of our disabled and mentally handicapped neighbors have far greater insights into life than we can ever imagine. Wouldn't it be wonderful if for just one day we could see through their eyes? To have the innocence of youth; to be loving and trusting of everyone? And to be taught by them?

Edwards says one of her students takes great pride in decorating his home with outdoor Christmas lights. But as soon as he put them up a few years ago, some thugs in the neigborhood broke them out. They even chided him with names like "retard" and worse.

"What can we do, Kathy, to teach the community that these people want to be accepted for where and what they are?" I asked.

Her response was simple. "How about the Golden Rule?"