Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Effortless

We turned a corner and had to come to a stop. A small crowd had gathered around one of the museum exhibits and there was simply no way past. One of the girls, with a group of other girls, all around Ruby's age, saw me and said, loudly, "Ewww, he's so fat!" The other girls turned to me and began giggling.

I know that Ruby and Sadie have become aware of other people's reaction to my physical being. These other others see me, put prejudices into place, and feel they know me. They weigh me, not with scales, but with a set of shallow standards and find me lacking, find me less. Public ridicule to them is a natural reaction to a devalued difference. I am not used to it, thought I should be. I am not inured to it, though I've tried to be. I am not forgiving of it, though I want to be.

My fear has always been, as the children grow, that they will come to value the opinion of random strangers over the relationship they have with me. That they will, like me, grow tired of the stares and the random comments. That they will, unlike me who must, decide that they don't wish to live with it. That they will, finally, become ashamed of me and how being with me makes them feel.

"Ewwww, he's so fat!"

[giggling]

Ruby stepped in and turned towards me. Showing those girls her back. She talked with me, quickly, laughing, as if to distract me from what had happened. I don't want an 8 year old girl, no matter how mature she is, to feel she has to protect me from the world. I don't want her to have to step out of being a child and in to being a protector. But, she did. And she did it naturally. While it took courage, it didn't seem to take effort - this is the person she is becoming.

We continued on, she with her hand on my arm, showing connection, showing a kind of awesome defiance, and we went on. Past those children. Past the parents who heard and did nothing, and on into our day.

Leaving them fully and completely behind.

5 comments:

Colleen said...

Dear Dave, I'm so sorry you encounter this with such alarming regularity. Ruby did the loving thing. You are one of the people who has taught, is teaching, her about love. I can understand your fear that she will be influenced by those who reject and ridicule. But that just isn't who Ruby is. I admit I only know her through your blog posts but what I see is a child well grounded in love and I believe she will be true to that grounding - which you have given her. As for those other kids and their parents - they obviously don't have Ruby's advantage. Colleen

Janet Roy said...

Children are children. They are brutally honest and cruel as they try to find their place in the pack. I forgive them these comments. The "parents", however, have exhibited a decided lack of parenting. A missed opportunity to set their children back on the right path. That behaviour is despicable. That behaviour is unforgivable.

Ron Arnold said...

I see the group's behavior as an example of peer orientation. They are 'norming' themselves according to their shared values. Ruby can be a catalyst to a better norm. Ruby's cool. There are things in the world she'll choose to do in love (love is a verb - not a noun) that would not be necessary in a kinder world - though by her actions - she's certainly manifesting kindness and love as an example others can follow.

Your relationship is a context by which she is learning love. I don't think there's anything finer than that . . . .

Anonymous said...

I don't see Ruby's behaviour as "defending" you - but rather standing up for her right to define how she feels about you by what she knows about you rather than what others may think/judge about you. You go, girl!!! I hope she never loses that! (although with her parenting and her contact with you and others of similar thinking, it's unlikely she will!)

Purpletta said...

Dave, I read your blog this morning and it has been on my mind all day. Thank you for sharing these tremendously personal moments in time; your sharing not only your analysis of the situation but the poignancy of your feelings is such a gift to us as readers. I am grateful that through your sharing so openly many of the feelings I hold buried deeply, I somehow feel less alone. Thank you!...The difference you make is beyond words.

I attended a workshop you did, have used materials you have published, have eagerly read your blog for years. Although I don't "know" you, I feel from these experiences that I do 'know' your spirit, your generosity, your commitment to people, to equality, to a future that is promising for people who would without you have had less of a bright future, fewer opportunities for inclusion, less respect. What you give to not only the 'disability community' but truly to the whole of the community through all you do to make the community richer through the incorporation of everyone's gifts and talents...Thank you is so incredibly insufficient... We are grateful...

Hearing what you went through in this situation, I had a mix of emotions. I'd like to give you a hug... I'd like to have what almost seems like a magical power of being able to block those expressions of hurt, replace them with the kindness and support you deserve... And because I am not as kind as you are, I would like to sternly correct those who see through glasses that are tinted with prejudice. For what it's worth, Dave, I know that I don't "know" you but when I look at you I see a brilliant, kind, compassionate, giving, supportive, committed, talented, *truly beautiful* person. Thank you for being that person...

I can see why Ruby loves you dearly and from what you share of her and Sadie their love is true. And Dave, love that is true never turns to feeling negatively about 'being with,' never turns to valuing anyone else's thoughts over your true bond together, and never ever turns to shame. Speaking only for myself I know that sometimes those of us who have had devaluing experiences sometimes need to be reminded of it, but true love only grows stronger. True love only grows into more experiences of being connected, walking with hand on arm, being one in solidarity, being grateful for your spirit. Not because you need defending. Not because it's a little girl's job to defend. But because that bond of true respect, true valuing of one another, true heartfelt love, is the most wonderful gift we can give each other. And it is clear through your descriptions of the girls that they so value sharing and exchanging that true bond with you. Thank you for reminding us how important we are all to one another...

With heartfelt respect,
Purpletta