Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Day Out

My inner Grinch was outed for a second.

"The noise, noise, NOISE ..." I said to Joe who immediately got the reference. The Science Center had a Superhero exhibit and there were pictures of Marvel Superheros everywhere. But even more there were kids. Thousands of kids. Screaming. Crying. Whining. Yelling. Laughing. Kids. Suddenly I realized that Ontarians are having way more sex that I had ever thought.

We were both tired. But we bravely carried on. We looked at exhibits, tried out the activity centers, and got a kick out of watching Joseph have so much fun. He's just shy of his teen years and is growing into a really good human being. Ruby, his new sister, fussed a bit but her eyes were caught by all the colours, sounds and activities. After staring at a fantastical world she fell sound asleep.

I pulled the wheelchair up to a series of picnic style tables that were set up for kids to colour and make their own comic books. Adults had taken over one end and most sat staring into space picturing the days before children no doubt. A little boy, only slightly out of infancy, slipped off the bench and fell to the floor. The child, amazingly, did not cry. He just looked a trifle confused as he looked from under the table out to the world.

To my right a blurr of activity and a young man raced towards the fallen child. Everyone stopped. For a moment the room seemed almost silent. We all saw, at once, that the rescuer had Down Syndrome. His eyes were intent on the child and his hands reached out. Horror was all over the faces of everyone.


Including me.

I know that God gave many people with Down Syndrome a hole in their heart so that excess love has a means of escape. I know that they have a capacity for such deep kindness. I have been a recipient of their gentleness.

But, still, horror froze my face.

Mom suddenly noticed her babe under the table and before the young man with Down Syndrome could reach the boy she intervened and picked him up. The guy with Down Syndrome screeched to a halt and looked up. He saw everyone look at him. He was with another young fellow, I never saw anyone else with them but I doubt they were alone. He sat down on the bench and said, "I was just going to help."

God bless him. His heart. His willingness to intervene when all of us stood and watched.

But please, God, let someone teach him to stand back. To not rush in. That men do not reach out and touch, in any way, children they do not know. The child was not in danger. Not crying. Not needing any real help.

But he, the young man with Down Syndrome, needs help. He needs to understand that people already have a prejudice about those with intellectual disabilities.

"I don't want THEM moving in to the neighbourhood, I fear for the safety of my children."

You know what that means.

So do I.

His intent, I'm sure was pure. But in the eyes of those watching, their fears were confirmed. It's prejudice. It's wrong. It shouldn't be. But it is. And because it is he needs to learn some difficult lessons. But they are lessons we've all learned.

Teach him how to stand by.

Like we all did.

Teach him the ways of social coldness.

Like we all are.

Teach him to bind up his heart.

Like we all do.

The world is dangerous when you are different.

The world judges you when you are different.

The world is not safe on so many different levels.

Forgive me. I know that many will want me to say that he doesn't need to change, the world does. And of course I agree.

But until the world changes ...

he needs to.


justme said...

Well that sucks.

lina said...

no, that's reality - and the world hasn't changed - and in this case, there's more working against this man than down's's unsafe for anyone to touch a child that is a stranger to them. And unfortunetly, add this to an already biased world, and the danger is that much higher. The real problem here is realizing the need to teach reality - and I don't see that reality changing for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Reality sucks

Moggy said...

I've never noticed a social convention where I live that bans people from touching other folks' children if they're potentially in danger, hurt, or distressed... I generally don't do it, because I have no clue what to do with a kid in the first place, but it's normal here to see others do it.

I would make sure that the guy with Down Syndrome has someone else (without DS) to speak up for him, and make sure others can't hurt him. Otherwise... What's someone going to do? Call the police because he touched a kid? I've had someone do that for me accidentally bumping lightly into a six-year-old...after hearing both sides, the police dismissed it.

I don't believe, from experience, in the "until the world, WE have to" approach. The world (or those horrified looks) *doesn't* change unless people start forcing it to, by pushing in the right direction for it. Prejudice isn't fought by having the prejudiced folks accommodated until they feel like'd have happened by now. Had disabled people in the past bowed out because someone else was prejudiced (even violently), we'd not only never be educated, we'd still be stuck in institutions.

I know how awful fighting to change the world can be... I was the first disabled kid to do a lot of things here, even just attending school! It meant a lot of visits/calls/arguing for my parents, and a lot of physical/verbal abuse for me while adults looked on. But someone always has to go first, to start changing the world for those following. Waiting for it to change for us...too much like kissing the bully's butt so he doesn't hit us, instead of making him stop.

Personally, I don't believe in people "not being ready" regarding things. When I was growing up, the doctors and nurses never made sure I was "ready" for what they had to do...they just did it, and I had to deal. Society is the same way; it fights like mad against change if given the chance, but it can get used to it very quickly if it has to. I did. *shrug*

(As a side note, people here *did* change, and now are among the most accepting I've ever heard of. The world is changed one person, one community at a time... I'm glad I got to be a part of "converting" the individuals here while growing up, even if it was horrible at points.)

Moggy said...

For the relevant record... I grew up with serious internal impairments, a trashed asthmatic immune system, incontinence, PTSD to the point of becoming violent while losing contact with reality, dyspraxia, asexuality, an ileostomy (for 1 year), and many obvious "developmental delay" (Autistic) traits. People had plenty of prejudices to overcome dealing with me, so my comment wasn't from a totally clueless perspective.

Frances said...

Dear Dave- I would think this issue is less one extreme or the other(the world changing OR the disabled changing) and more a case of teaching that young man with Down's Syndrome a 'better' way of showing care. 'Better' because it is more sensitive to other people's feelings. Like, walking up to the mom and offering help or pointing out that her child has fallen if she hasn't realized. Isn't it better to teach him (anyone) how to be sensitive to others? That's not bending to the will of a predjudiced society, it's educating someone who might not know how to be a better person. We ALL need teachers who are willing to teach us with compassion and love. I have several. I need them. Especially Q. Frances