Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jackson's Lesson

I'm sitting at Starbucks while Joe and Mike and Ruby are getting ready to go swimming. Ruby loves the pool and I love Starbucks Green Tips tea. I'm reading a wonderful little book called 'The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie' and I was having a lovely time when a family overtook the table two behind me. I worked at tuning out their chatter so I could continue on with my book.

I gave up because the children's boisterous voices kept breaking into my concentration. No I wasn't annoyed at their noise. I don't understand people who complaing about children's happy noises. Kids crying bugs the hell out of me, like it does everyone else, but happy sounds from children are charming no matter how loud or in what context. The giggle of the girls and the snorts from the boys acted as a kind of social 'happy' drug in my system.

So I looked out of the window and watched passersby and just listened to the chatter around me. One of the boys spotted me, I only know this because I get a skin prickly feeling when I'm being stared at. I glanced over to see if I was right and I was, he looked to be about 8 and he was scanning me intently. I looked away, uncomfortable. One of the parents notice and said, "Jackson, don't stare." I was pleased at the parental intervention and decided right there I loved the name Jackson.

A boy's voice said, "He must be so sad."

Dad now, "Why do you say that?"

"He can't walk."

Mom: "He rolls, it's just different."

"He can't run."

Dad: "I'll bet his chair goes really really fast downhill."

"He doesn't have any friends."

Mom now: "Look he's wearing a wedding ring."

Normally I'd be uncomfortable being talked about but I wasn't. I was fascinated. I listen to them calmly discussing why his assumption of sadness was just that, an assumption.

Jackson seemed like he'd been argued out. Finally he said, "Well, maybe he's not so sad."

Mom again: "Just because someone is different doesn't mean that we should feel sorry for them, we should just be curious about how their life is different, we should be interested."

Then suddenly, it was over.

Joe, Mike and Ruby came into the coffee shop and I was surrounded by activity. On our way out I stopped and said to Jackson's parents, "If I had an award to give to parents for good parenting, you'd get it. I appreciate you helping Jackson appreciate difference."

Jackson jumped in: So you aren't sad that you are in a wheelchair.

I looked at him and said: One day I'll race you ... downhill.

I love the sound of kids laughing.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Can we *clone* these parents? They sound like amazing people who will bring up amazing kids. Lucky, lucky kids.

JudiElise said...

Yes, I wish they could get an award!

This was a lovely piece.

I, too, love the sound of children laughing and love their questions. When I spent a year in a wheelchair, my kids loved it and showed it off to people like a prized piece of machinery. I am upright now due to surgery, but now my youngest one needs a wheelchair to help him get around more. We are all excited about when his is coming, picking out colors.

The funny line around here is someone asking me "I'll race you!" and I always say, "and, you'd win!"

I know my children will always have compassion for anyone with disabilities. We can only continue to educate people and have inclusion in every area of life, then more people will learn to be like these children, open to ask questions and quick to see a new perspective.

Brenda said...

What a wonderful exchange! And yes, those parents deserve an A+. If there were more like them, prejudice wouldn't stand a chance.

Lisa said...

That really made me feel good, what thoughtful parents they were. I am so glad you acknowledged them. Btw, I am partial to the name Jackson myself, it's my grandson's name

FridaWrites said...

Great parents.

Anonymous said...

talk about improving the shining hour.

Rosemary said...

What a great story! Jackson's parents sound like folks I would like to know. Jackson and his siblings are lucky kids.

lisa said...

Dave,
Off the subject, there is a wonderful piece in the Huffington Post on the new MTV show "How's Your News". My husband had bought me a dvd of this show a few years ago and I enjoyed that then and I enjoy the show now. I think you might too.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-moore/hows-your-news_b_168102.html

Lisa

Belinda said...

I know that fixed stare all too well. I've had children stare at thread veins in my legs, and ask me personal questions about other physical features. Their honesty and curiosity is boundless. I'm so glad Jackson wasn't hushed up, but his parents used the teachable moment with skill and grace.He will no doubt become an amazing grown up.

jueb said...

once i'd stpped crying happy tears. Thats made my day its good to know there are parents out there teaching their kids the right things.

Ettina said...

Personally, I think Jackson is a last name, and does not make sense as a first name. But if people want to name their kids strange names, it's no big deal. I think Jackson's parents sound like excellent people who will raise a great son.

liz said...

I am totally impressed, both by them, and by you and your speak-up-itivness.

Resa said...

Wow...good for them.

Ssejors said...

I always enjoy you daily dose of life dave! thanks for this post !

catherineturner said...

what a lovely refreshing experience. Too often parents say to their children "Don't ask questions", "Don't be rude" or simply "Ssh" when they ask questions about my chair or cane. Telling them to be quiet is just about the worst thing in my book.

Fleecy said...

That's wonderful what the mom said! That you shouldn't feel sorry for somebody just because they're different, but be interested instead. That should definitely get an award. Not only did they stop and actually explain something to their kid (instead of the usual shushing that doesn't teach the kid anything) but they totally got it right, too.

Anonymous said...

I read things like this and it helps me become a better parent...I now know a perfect conversation to have with my children when they ask those types of questions. A parental award indeed. Thank you.

Melissa said...

That is an awesome story!