Friday, May 17, 2013

It's Hard to Love a Freak

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Isn't it easy to love beautiful, smart, funny, popular people?  I want to hang out with Brad Pitt and Ellen Degeneres, don't you?  Don't you want to be invited to a private concert with Maroon 5?  Sure!  Why not?  They are amazing people, aren't they?

Really, I have no idea if they are amazing.  I don't know them personally.  It's easy to like them because they are good looking, funny and popular.  Everyone WANTS to love them.

What about the guy with one leg in the wheelchair at the grocery store?  or the teenage girl walking in the school hall with a big limp and has her head cocked to the side?  or the boy with autism that bangs his head on the restaurant table?  or the old woman that has red skin patches that won't heal because her skin is too thin?  Do you want to hang out with them?  Do you want to follow them on Twitter? Do you want to go out to dinner with them?   The thought is a little intimidating, isn't it? 

It is for me too, and I'm the mother of a child in a wheelchair who cannot talk.  I know my son, and I've always been around him, so it's easy to spend time with him and be comfortable.  But I see the fear in others' eyes. I see the people that see the wheelchair and avoid eye contact.  I see the mothers that turn their children's heads away from looking at him.  I see the people that immediately become speechless when presented face to face with my son.

Why is it so hard to like these people that aren't like us?  It's like they're alien.  They don't always speak our language.  They don't always move like we do.  They don't always act the way we act.  It's easy to judge someone based on how they look, isn't it?

Sometimes I equate it with music.  Sure, it's easy to love a song like Call Me Maybe.  It's catchy, fun, and makes you happy.  Then, on the other side of it, you have Jazz.  Some Jazz is erratic, hard to follow, doesn't have words, it's loud, and sometimes, it's not like music at all.  But if you take the time to listen, take the time to get to know it and give it a chance, you may find some of the most beautiful, moving, deep and invigorating music created.  I admit, I don't love all Jazz, and it's work to get through it sometimes.  But I give it a chance, and often it surprises with how amazing it can be.

People with different abilities can be like that.  It's work to put yourself out there and talk with someone that's different than you.  It's work to try to understand people that may not be able to communicate in traditional ways.  And you will not like everyone you meet.  You will not like every single elderly person, or child with autism, or teenager with Cerebral Palsy, or person with developmental delay.  But you won't know until you get to the core of who that person is.  You won't know what that person has to offer if you avoid contact or make fun of them.

One of the hardest lessons I've learned as the parent of a disabled child is that I shouldn't judge someone by the things they cannot control.  It's a daily learning process. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish what can't be helped with things that people do on purpose.  But what I do know now is that it's easy to love the people that are beautiful inside, differently-abled or otherwise.  It's hard to love the closed-minded freaks that bully those that are different.    

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