Saturday, October 5, 2013
October, Be Aware
October is both spina bifida awareness month and Down syndrome awareness month. I celebrate the fact that I get to be a parent of some pretty awesome kids and a part of two amazing worlds I never would have been associated with in a self-chosen life, and I ponder how much I have changed for the better because of it all.
I want to say this because sometimes I catch the look in someone's eye when they see me out in public or meet our family for the first time. It's a look of pity, sorrow, horror maybe. They speak to me in a quiet voice, like one reserved for a morgue or supporting a friend whose been through something terrible. "What's wrong with your son?" they may say, pointing in the direction of Caedmon. Or a quick glance at Asher and then a turning away, as though he's something scary or contagious and if they look too long they could catch it.
It's so important for me to say, in as many ways as possible, that the people you see who are different, walking crooked, using a wheelchair, having unique facial features, are people who laugh and cry and love and hurt. They have good days and bad days, they have people who love them and maybe people who treat them terribly. They brighten the lives of everyone who takes the time to get to know them and they are not pitiful and their lives are not sad and there is nothing horrible about their existence. In other words, they are people.
My prayer is that, because you have read a bit about my family, the next time you pass a person in the grocery store, at the park, on the street, who looks different from you, you can put a genuine smile on your face, look them in the eye and say, "Hello! How are you?" And really care to hear what the answer is. Because the only way you are going to be able to break out of the box of able-ism that our society puts all of us in is to actually take the time to interact and get to know others. And when you do that your life will be transformed into a much more beautiful, colorful, lively and joyfilled place.