Sunday, November 01, 2009

Photo Op

We arrived at the hotel without a single story to tell. Hallelujah!

I waited in the lobby, just off the registration desk, while Joe got a porter and the two of them moved the luggage from the car to the room. I knew if I got into the room, I'd be in it for the night. Instead I waited because I really did want to go to the bar and get a cup of tea. A few feet from me were a bunch of couches set up for people to lounge about in. They were taken up by a family with three children, a boy of 10, a girl maybe 8, and a little one - a boy of about 2. The girl was dressed up as a witch, neither boy was in costume.

They were laughing and having fun, I like the sound of kids having fun so it doesn't disturb me in the way it obviously was disturbing others waiting at the desk for various bits of assistance. I noticed the oldest boy most because he was running all over the lobby, his sister occasionally half heartedly chased him. At one point I saw him take out a camera and shoot a picture. He was up a small set of stairs and he looked at the picture and laughed. He called his sister over and she looked at the picture, giggled and then looked straight at me. Way to announce that you've just taken a candid photograph of a fat guy in a wheelchair.

Father, suspicious at their sudden silence and consipiratorial manner, surprised them and took the camera, he looked at the picture and then harshly at his son. 'What on earth do you think you are doing?' Father glanced at me, saw that I knew what was going on, grabbed his son's arm and marched him over to me. 'I hope you won't mind telling my son how it makes you feel when people point you out or make fun of you.'

A thousand thoughts went through my head. I really didn't want to take the responsibility to parent this kid - even though I judge parenting everytime I'm out, people without kids are the best parents. I took a breath and looked this handsome little boy in the eye.

'Your father thinks I'm going to tell you how you hurt my feelings. Well, let me tell you, you didn't. You don't have that kind of power over me. What you think of me doesn't matter one little bit to me. What you've got to worry about is what I think of you. You see the moment you took that picture to make fun of me, I put you in the category of 'person not worth knowing'. I expect less from you than I did before. You know when I saw you playing with your sister and your brother, I thought 'What a great kid.' Now, I just think you a a mean spirited person not worth knowing or bothering about. Here's something else, everyone else who saw you do that, thought the same. You became less in their minds. You knew it was wrong before your father came and took the camera from you, now you expect less of yourself.'

His eyes started to fill with tears, he began to apologize. I wasn't in the mood, 'I said, the best apology is change. Just don't do it again. Instead of making fun of someone else, discover sources of fun within yourself. Your life will be richer.'

Father led him away. I call out, 'Erase the picture will you?' Father nodded but didn't turn back. There was sudden quiet from that corner of the hotel.

Joe came back and saw the aura and said, 'Oh, no, we didn't make the day did we?'

'Yes, we did,' I said.


Kristin said...

Damn, I was so hoping you could have made it through the day. However, I think you handled that BRILLIANTLY. That young man might actually remember and learn.

Mrs Richard Basehart said...

I would never ask another person to parent my child, but you handled that, as Kristin said, BRILLIANTLY. And so true too. I had a wonderful english teacher in high school. She had to have been in her eighties and had deformed hands from arthritis. One day I saw a guy I had always liked making fun of her hands and I never again liked him or thought of him as a nice guy.

Karyn said...

As a parent I generally don't ask others to parent for me. But, kudos to the Dad for doing something and recognizing that this boy needed to see you as a person who can speak for himself.

Gone Fishing said...

Thanks Dave,as an old grown up I recently adopted an attitude of "People who cause me grief simply do not exist in my world, (takes a while to learn sometimes), and such it seems causes a few people, so called case managers major problems.

Especially when I add, due to an identity manipulation "not my file not my problem"

we can look back and say that everything we have achieved we have done so without the help of the "System" and despite a few blocking attempts. You set it out very nicely to those kids I hope as they grow they remember it.

Kristin said...

Hey Dave, I have a post about you on my blog.

Melissa said...

Dave, I'm over from Kristin's blog (Dragondreamers Lair) via her shout out. You sound amazing and I look forward to reading your blog!

Anonymous said...

"even though I judge parenting every time I'm out, people without kids are the best parents. "
yeah, right....
I seriously disagree with you on this point Dave. I am actually hoping that I am misjudging the way in which you wrote this.
I am a parent.
No one understands what parents go through, with their kids, unless they are a parent. (sorry to those who thought differently!)
Until I had a child I thought that the advice that "I" gave my sisters kids was the best advice.
I was so wrong.
What this child did was wrong.
As a parent I would probably would have done something similar to what this parent did. No one is perfect, no response is perfect. We (the majority- hopefully!) do what we can in raising our children to be respectful and polite.
The response from you to this CHILD, was wrong in my opinion.
This was an opportunity for learning and you hurt this child with your words as much as he hurt you with his actions. It is evident in his tears. When he tried to apologize for his actions,you dismissed him. In the mind of this 10 year old, he is a "mean spirited person not worth knowing or bothering about." This is what he is left with. A crushed self worth.
I believe that every thing is an opportunity to learn from and an opportunity to grow.
I agree with you that the best apology is change... but it might be done better with a positive taste in the mouth, not a negative one.
As to stay true to what I wrote, I admire you Dave and the change that you bring to the lives of people living with disabilities. Keep on doing what you do best, but I hope that a little constructive criticism will be met with another opportunity to learn!

Louise said...

Dave - I read your blog all the time and don't comment (even though I have ordered the Lottery book...). Anyway, as a mother to two children, I read your response to the boy with some shock. I agree with Anonymous - your response (though perhaps theoretically correct) would really crush a child. (The response would suit an older person perhaps - late teens and older who would be more able to take it and understand it fully). If it had been my child, I would like to have done what the boy's father did and bring him to you - hoping that you would let him know how what he did was hurtful to you. But all the rest about him being worthless etc. seems a bit over the top... However, I admit I am not in your shoes, so it is just my opinion and I still respect your right to have said what you did.

liz said...

As a mom with a 7-yo son, I would NEVER have done what that father did, but I will use your speech when (if? please don't let it be when) my son is mean-spirited enough to think that making fun of people is funny.

Anonymous said...

I have been enjoying your blog for several months now, but your response to that child has left me with a bad taste for your site. Other readers congratulate your response, I can only feel that for a teacher to treat a child that way, you surely weren't living what you teach. I imagine that little boy was crushed by your response. You took an opportunity to teach and instead used it to hurt that child (and yes, I can appreciate that you should not always be in that position). I can only think that once his tears dried (tears you brought on) he not only saw you as a mean adult, but a cruel and hurtful one as well. Let's hope he doesn't assign those qualities to every person he sees in a wheelchair.

I am a mother and I would never presume to have someone else parent or admonish my child for what was thoughtless, hurtful behavior. That is my job and my responsibility, and not one I take lightly. Your parting words would have been as affective without the cruelty you proceeded them with.