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I once dated a guy from church, Brant, who has a mentally ill brother named Jake. The times I visited Brant at his house, I would always see Jake watching Disney movies and clapping his hands. I loved giving him a hug and talking to him about the movie. Brant mentioned to me that I was the only girl who would talk to his little brother. This surprised me...he was a loving boy.

Mentally ill people have the capability to love, care, and teach in a manner that's different and sometimes more meaningful than the majority of people in this world. -- Alexis Sebring, Carlsbad H.S. I have encountered several people with mental illnesses in recent years. There is a student at my high school who is autistic. He would always say hi to me and knew me by name. For the longest time I felt like the biggest jerk because I could never remember his name. He always had something positive to say, a compliment or a question. He always cared about what I was up to or how this or that was going; he made an effort to be my friend. I have learned that he has amazing musical talent. He has perfect pitch identification and plays the piano well. It is strange and amazing that some are given great talents and some form of mental handicap. Another autistic boy I know is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. He loves war history (current interest: World War II) and collects war-movie DVDs. I was privileged enough to spend a day with him, and we went to the park. He played on the equipment, laughing and even playing imaginary war. He is an innocent and free-spirited child, also with musical talent. According to his parents, he pulled out an electric piano from the closet and started to play "Joy to the World." His parents came to see what the noise was. When they asked him where he'd learned to play the piano, he said, "I taught myself." -- Derrick Sun, Mt. Carmel H.S.

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