I was so torn. And I must have looked a bit weird. Joe and I had gone shopping at a very upscale grocery store. We tend not to go there because everything is SO expensive. We were stunned to see that a loaf of bread cost 7 or 8 bucks. I whispered to Joe that we should make an announcement that not even the most expensive bread can take the stink from poo - because most of the people shopping there seemed to be convinced that when they pinched a loaf it would smell of fresh baked money. ANYWAYS that has nothing to do with the dilemma I found myself in.
One of the things I like about the store is that the staff who work there are a very, very, diverse group. I LIKE diversity. People of different ethnicities, differing genders, differing sexualities, differing faith groups, differing approach to body art. It's cool - intentional diversity always is. I did notice that there didn't seem to be anyone with any kind of disability on staff but ... hey we often ride on the back seat of the diversity bus - because that's where the lift is of course.
But today, while I was looking at the bread and thinking, oddly, about poo, Joe came up to me and said that they had hired a young man with Down Syndrome to work in the Deli department. Cool! Very Cool Indeed. Intentional diversity always is. As it happened when we went up to pay for our groceries, thinking all the while about the hugely expensive loaf of bread, I notice the young man sitting on break at the tables near the customer service desk.
Behind the desk was a young man who was groomed to perfection and who walked like he was on a runway. In this case when I say 'he's so gay' ... it's because he was - and out about it and proud about it too. I made my way up to the desk with the intention of saying something about the stores commitment to diversity and how much I valued seeing that as a customer. I wanted specifically to say something about disability in my compliment because, BECAUSE, I was told once by someone who worked in a large shopping centre that they get complaints from a solid minority of customers about 'not wanting to see that kind of thing' in a grocery store. As if people with disabilities curdle milk just by passing by! So I know they are going to get complaints. But I got there, he asked me, sweetly, if he could help me, I just mumbled something about how great the store was. He smiled, like he'd been trained to, and I could tell he was thinking, 'Oh, OK.'
Complainers have the courage to complain.
Yet compliments seem to die in the mouth of the praise-giver.
Which happened to me. Complainers don't worry about how they are taken or understood, they just want their voice to be heard ...
Would I be centring him out?
Would I be seen as silly?
Would my disability make my compliment less valuable - in a conflict of interest kind of way.
And I'm not sure I did the right thing by remaining silent. I WANT stores to know that there are customers on the other side of the employment issue ... customers who value intentional diversity ... customers who would come back to a store just BECAUSE of open hiring practises ... customers who think more highly of places that create jobs for all.
But I kept my mouth shut.
So, here' today's question ... should we speak up about these things or, if I had, would it have been seen as placing too much focus on the young man's disability?
I am truly curious to hear what you all have to say.