Saturday, January 02, 2016

Here Goes ...

Image Description: Large blue type reading: Be honest with yourself first.
I received some really nice feedback, both in the comments and from several emails, about my post yesterday about New Year's resolutions. As a result of one email, when someone mentioned something I'd not realized I'd written, I went back to read the post again. This isn't uncommon, I expect, for writers - readers sometimes see something we've written in a very different way, which is both cool and a bit frightening.

As I read what I'd written I began to feel uncomfortable with the story about the young boy, his care provider, and the astronaut. Everything that's there is true, it's what isn't there that pricked at my conscience. I don't think that, when I wrote it, I was doing anything other than trying to convey my heartfelt feelings about what I saw. In fact, I was so concentrated on trying to capture the scene, I neglected to really look at myself as viewer. And if I had, I'd have made a different, or perhaps an extra, resolution.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with going public with the next bit.

But there is a liberation in honesty I believe.

When the young boy came in with his care provider. I did what people do, I saw him, I saw his disabilities, and then I saw him again - this time differently. I try not to do that. I hate doing it. But sometimes I do it without knowing I'm doing it, even though it bothers me when others constantly do it to me. If I had not re-read the blog I wouldn't have had cause to really think about what actually happened inside my head when he came in.

As I said, I saw him and then saw him again after my assumption, prejudices and preconceptions snapped into place. His physical disabilities were extensive. He was laying passively being pushed in his wheelchair. My assessment, which was, again I hate to admit instantaneous, was that he had a significant physical disability and an even more significant intellectual disability.

When his face lit up for the astronaut, when he managed, through a significant physical disability to communicate with his care provider and a stranger in a costume, I understood that my assessment had been completely incorrect. I had seen something that wasn't there so I saw someone who wasn't there.

I need to, and this is a promise to myself, made publicly, stop, or moderate, my instant assessments about people in general and people with disabilities specifically. This kid, because of people like me, is going to have to fight constantly, for his whole life, to be seen past multiple prejudices. Because of people like me, his choices may be limited, his options curtailed, his opportunities dimmed. Because of his disabilities he will be fighting physical barriers all of his life but because of people like me he's going to be fighting phantom barriers that needn't exist.

Perhaps trying to live a life with fewer assumptions and prejudices might also make a better life and a pretty good 4th resolution.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave: I admire your honesty and transparency. And your resolutions. I think most people would never dig that deep about their own processes of assessment. Yet we all do just that. We assess our environment and the people in it automatically, often unconsciously. Most of us never examine that. You set us a good example Dave.

Susan said...

This helps me a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this! I know so many people whose initial "presentation" appearance goes against them when people are assessing their abilities, so they are not given a chance to share all they really can do. After reading this, I will try hard to be aware of myself if/when I do the same thing...and I won't beat myself up so badly, because you were brave enough to admit that you did the same thing. Thanks Dave!

szera said...

I don't believe we are all Buddha or meant to be; we are human with our human frailties. We each have more potential than we will truly realize/actualize in this life, however I think when we bring our frailties into the light and share them with one presents the opportunity and choice to learn, grow and simply become better human beings together.
Thank you for sharing! 💚

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I have fought hard all my life as a grownup against the prejudices I picked up - mostly from not having any experience with many kinds of people.

But I can't stop my automatic reactions - except that now I go into better reactions ALMOST instantly. It took a lot of work, and I persist for moral and ethical reasons, because it is the right thing to do.

But it isn't easy. It just has to be done.

Don't worry when your basic instinct is in the wrong direction; worry if you don't correct it.