We arrived at lunch time, how convienient huh, at the venue where I would be working with 110 adults with Down Syndrome from around the world. Joe and I chose a table and watched the general hub bub as the world delegates lined up for food, chose tables and picked friends to sit with. Very, very typical. There were several servers each manning a chaffing dish with a specific type of food in it. As the delegates came along they would choose food and be served food by these uniformed waiters and waitresses.
I've been at a billion of these over my lifetime and uniformly the food is slopped out with the efficiency of a prison cook. But as Joe and I watched we saw that those serving were smiling, chatting, even, god forbid, laughing. It was probably the most interactive line I've ever ever seen. I was then distracted by others who were there that I'd met on my last trip to Ireland. There were many to say 'hello', there were many who wanted to catch up.
The day ended as a rousing success, more on that in another blog, and Joe and I were making our way out of the hall. Just outside the door one of the young servers, a man barely out of his teens, he was talking with deep upset with one of the others. I signaled Joe to stop so I could get my wheelchair gloves more securely in place. It took me just long enough to hear what was being said, he said ...
"I teased those people when I was in school, a bunch of us even bullied them, I had no idea, no idea that they were just people. I can't beleive I was like that. I feel just so damned mean and ugly. I smiled at them and every time they smiled back I wanted to cry. Why didn't anyone tell us that they were people.'
Joe and I talked about his realization and agreed that he was at least beginning the journey of challenging his own prejudice. Cause you see, as much as he may deny it, he knew they were people. He just didn't know that they were equal. Aye, there's the rub.