Dear Daniel Keyes,
My uncle is mentally disabled. He loves rodeos, movies, sweet treats, sports, riding with my dad on vet calls, and of course, his friends and family. He looks to please everyone all of the time; my Uncle Tom is one of a kind. I also have a friend in school with a form of autism. He, much like my uncle, aims to please. People with disabilities are a part of my life.
In the hallways at school, name-calling is abundant. Especially, kids calling other kids "retards." Sadly, I was one of them. I regret this and am ashamed when I remember my actions. Thinking back, I don't know what possessed me to call others that, even as a joke. I would never call my uncle or my autistic friend that awful name, so why did I choose to say that to friends or peers?
Your short story, "Flowers for Algernon," had such an impact on me. I can honestly say that I've never had as strong of a reaction to a story. We read your story in school and each day as I would read, I'd feel the tears coming on. Of course I couldn't cry, not at school, not in public. I hated and loved the story all at the same time. I hated the fact that Charlie had to see that his "friends" weren't really his friends at all. That made me think of my uncle and how hard that would be for him.
I remember one time, we went swimming, and he came along. He had old goggles that were frayed, but he was so excited to go swimming and to go down the slide, nothing really mattered. In a sense he was just like a little kid, like Charlie. I was happy to spend time with him and experience his joy. Some mean kid in line for the slide at the pool coughed "retard" as it was my uncle's turn. My eyes swain with tears of anger and still do when I think about it.
Your story also filled me with joy. Charlie got a chance that my uncle will never get, a chance to see the world clearly for the first time. I was happy for him, but also sad. It was a reminder that Uncle Tom will be mentally disabled for the rest of his life. However, maybe that's for the best; that he doesn't see what every one else sees and can live a happy life.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing such a compelling story that changed my life.