I always loved Charlie Gordon just the way he was. From my first reading of Flowers for Algernon, Charlie captured my heart. Just the way Kenny did. His simplicity was pure, his smile captivating, and his vulnerability huge. It was easy to hurt him and the general population felt no bones about doing so. He was fair game — for hurtful names, pranks, teasing, manipulation.
I’m not sure what it is that makes people think that the Kennys and the Charlie Gordons of the world don’t feel pain. Maybe it’s because they don’t hurt back.
Frustration comes easily when rote tasks are struggles. It’s embarrassing when your peers are studying algorithms and you’re studying how to read a bus schedule and count change. But if you fall, the Kennys and the Charlie Gordons are quick to extend a hand; if you miss the ball they cheer you on…because they understand that.
It was hard not to like Kenny if you took the time to know him. His smile was infectious, his heart was huge, and his hugs were wonderful. He loved, he trusted and he followed. And that made him prey, ultimately costing him his freedom and his life.
I’m angry with those who took his life but the greater struggle is reconciliation with those too impatient to wait, too lazy to teach, too unwilling to sacrifice. Those who said “I love you” but used him for their own good, left him when it was convenient, drew him near when it paid, and in the end threw him to the wolves.
I want there to be a special place in Hell for those who torture the simple but Kenny wouldn’t like that I feel that way. He’d tell me they don’t really mean it. I still have much to learn from him.
I always loved Kenny just the way he was.