It will not surprise you to know that I can be assertive. I've cultivated the skill of being firm without being angry. I use this a lot on children who stare at me. It astonishes me that parents often do not intervene in situations like this. Don't tell me they don't notice, they do. I am old enough to now begin to bemoan the lack of basic social skills training in children who stare at strangers, in children who play video games during breakfast, in children who whisper on phones in church. OK, sue me. Typically I look at the child, without hostility, and say in an informal but educational way, 'Don't stare, it's rude.' Then I break gaze and go about my business. It works one hundred percent of the time. Not once have I had a parent say anything to me about what I've said. I figure it's my contribution to the future.
Anyways, the other day, before coming down here to Boston we stopped in Belleville to celebrate Mike's birthday with his son Joseph, his girlfriend Marissa, and his two daughters Ruby and Sadie. We went out to a Chinese Buffet place and were eating and clowning around. It's sensational the way, 'I got your nose' and 'pull my finger' are such great games. Ruby was sitting next to me and I managed to figure out a broccoli game that actually got some of the stuff in her mouth and down into her tummy. We laughed, a lot. There was pandemonium at the table, babies being passed from lap to lap, little girls crawling over people and under chairs, teen aged boys finally getting some of the innuendo's we'd been making over the years.
It was so busy that it took me a while to notice a boy of about 10 standing and staring at me. When I saw him I immediately went to my 'teacher voice' but I did not speak, something in his eyes stopped me. I just went back to having fun, very conscious that the stare continued. I glanced up and I noticed the table with his parents. They were fighting, viciously. I heard faint sounds of swearing, while their voices were soft their body language was hard. These were people in the midst of a huge fight. They didn't even notice their boy leaving the table and standing staring at a big man in a wheelchair with a little girl's nose in his right hand and a little baby smacking him on his left side.
I saw his eyes again. There was such deep sadness in his eyes, no, no, there was longing there, no, no, there was a painful envy there. He wasn't staring at me, he was wishing he was there, part of it, he was immobilized by his imagining of having dinner where people ate, not fought, talked, not argued, played, not hurt. He was imagining being part of a family.
I hate being started at with hostility but it hurt to be looked at with envy. I knew what that boy wanted because when I was that age, I wanted the same thing. To be included. Odd how we in the disability field fight for the inclusion of people with disabilities into everyday lives, we fight for what we assume everyone else has. But it's not true. We need to fight for the inclusion of all. That people with disabilities might use the language of exclusion and the fact that we have articulated the meaning of inclusion - to bring these concepts forward so that they can be used to begin to heal a society wherein loneliness begins at home. Where family exists as a flicking figment on television. Where belonging is a marketing strategy. We as people who have known what it is to be separate need to use what we know to lead ...
not to follow ...
but to lead to a world where 'all' means 'all', where no-one is assumed to be part of the whole, where welcome is extended.
From the frontiers of bias we discovered the need to live within the community. We came home only to find that community no longer exists. Instead of wanting in, we need to build, to create and then finally, to welcome.
Even lost little ten year old boys, who live with the unfulfilled desire that someone will sit down for supper and steal his nose.