Hello. I came and got in line behind you today. I am not sure why you were there, most likely shopping for the game. You didn’t really notice me, but I noticed you. You were there with your mom, maybe picking up a few things getting ready to watch the game like everyone else. There wasn’t enough room on the end of the conveyor to place my items on the belt yet so it gave me an unexpected chance to witness the end of your conversation.
I don’t know how the conversation started, I assume it was surrounding the word ‘retard’ or some form of it, but the end of it is what disturbed me the most. You were hitting your bent hands against your chest and you made the comment with a distorted face and a distorted voice saying “because I am so stupid”. It was enough to shake me to my core. You mother was looking up at you beaming with pride, smiling at your story. And it made me a little sad for you. Sad because you looked to be about 14 years old, definitely not more than 16 – still so young and impressionable. Your mom kinda laughed and you embraced in a side hug which tells me that you are likely not affected by any one having a disability. I desperately wanted to say something to you, but I held my tongue. I was simply dumbfounded in that moment and sad for you.
There was no way to know anything about me. I was not wearing a CP Proud mom shirt, I don’t have a tattoo of a green ribbon or a 3E keychain. There is no way you could have known that the bags under my eyes were from a long night with my son who has Cerebral Palsy and the other many issues that come along with it. That my rush to the grocery store between church and the Spurs game was because I spent the last week taking care of my son who ended up spending the day in the ER yesterday for still unknown issues and has spent the better part of two days crying in pain. Honestly, I was just glad that I was too busy running to be able to take my wheelchair bound two year old son or his adoring big sister with me. I know that one day they will both face these attitudes, but I would like to keep them innocent for a little longer.
My son is two years old. Its likely he might not reach your age, and if he does I will never have a moment of standing with him in a grocery store line talking about our day. You see my son was born early – through no fault of his own he is cannot walk and cannot talk. But I hope that if the roles were reversed I would have instilled in him by your age that we respect life and all people despite their circumstances and embracing our differences. It’s not about tolerance. It’s about acceptance and celebrating life no matter the manner in which it is presented.
So I am simply asking, when in public please be a little more judicial with your attitudes and actions because you never know when the person standing behind you might be affected by the thing you are making fun of.
Peace and Love,
Mom of a Superman
PS: that action you were imitating is typically significant in making fun of people with Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. Despite physical awkwardness that comes with the condition, many of them are quite intelligent! I would highly suggest finding one and talking to them. While it might be uncomfortable at first since it will be a new experience, I know you will find that like all people they have a story – they have dreams and aspirations, likes and dislikes – but more than that they have thoughts and ideas. There is a world out there that these kids live in that is amazing and extraordinary. They fight for everything – every step, every word and sometimes every breath. They truly hold more bravery in themselves than any captain of a football team, head cheerleader or mathlete around. Expand your horizons and open your heart.
PSS: Even if you said the ‘r’ word and I didn’t hear it – its not ok. Please think before you speak!