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.
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.