I saw a young man with Down Syndrome, maybe 8 years old. He was with both his mom and dad and they were having a good time. He was happy. I know those kinds of moments. I have them all the time. Moments of complete and utter inclusion, where disabilities and differences of all sorts just drop away. Lovely, lovely moments. He looked to be having one of those.
Then, out of the blue, two women, passersby, notice him and his family. They stop and stare at him. One is shaking her head while talking to the other. His parents don't notice, they are facing away from the two women. He, though, the boy, notices. He is yanked from the moment. Like someone lassoed his difference and pulled him from inclusion to display. Difference was what they looked at, difference was what they shook their heads at, difference was what stopped them in their tracks.
The boy? He looked completely unsurprised at their stare. He looked weary of it. He's only 8 and already he knows that look. He probably knows other ones as well. Ones of positive affirmation, ones that all children get. But this one, I know this one. Everyone who is valued differently, valued as less, knows it too.
He's too young to have the weight of that look on his shoulders.
He's too young to have to bear the burden of prejudice and bias and bigotry.
He's too young to have to do anything other that grow and learn and laugh and play.
I watched him helplessly.
Then I saw a twinkle in his eyes. He made a V sign with his forefinger and his middle finger and then he did the "I'm watching you" move by pointing that V at his eyes and then at the two women.
They were caught.
It was like a shock ran through them.
They must have thought he either wouldn't notice or wouldn't understand. With one single gesture he showed them that they had been seen, caught, and that he had completely comprehended their actions. They scurried away.
He glanced at me. I silently applauded him. He did the same thing to me, 'I'm watching you' ... but this time he was grinning.
So was I.