Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Then he ...

We were getting on an elevator. It was one of those cool elevators with a glass wall allowing you to watch your ascent or descent. Further, when it was on the ground floor, it looking right into a waterfall giving the rise from or the descent into an even nicer vista. We heard two children running, "Mama! Mama! The elevator is here. Mama! Mama! Hurry Mama!!" There was absolute excitement in their voice. Joe held the door open button to give them and their mother time to arrive.

They skidded to a stop in front of the open doors. They looked fearful. Fearful. The older said, "No, you go." We said we'd wait for their mother. He was more insistent now, "No, you go." They had backed away and the older was holding on to the younger. I realized that they were afraid to get on with us. With me. Their mother came into view and saw us holding the elevator. She said, "We'll wait." Joe said, "We don't mind there is lots of room" She said, looking at me but talking to Joe, "No I don't want to expose my children to ..." Then she was lost for words.

Joe let the door close.

I'm not sure how she thought I would respond to such a statement. I don't know that she cared much about it either. But, I have to admit, it stung, badly. I had seen the fear on the boy's faces and then I saw the source of their fear, they were being taught, systematically, that people like me were objects to be avoided, dangers to be stepped around. And all I was doing was sitting on an elevator.

We rode up, quietly. Just before the door open, Joe struggled with something to say. I put my hand on his arm. What was there to say? How do you respond?

We went about our day both of us tucking what happened away. I no longer want people to have the power to steal time from me, to steal my enjoyment of my day, to have the power to influence my ability to experience joy. There was nothing to do but let go.

We saw them later, all together, When I rolled by where they were the younger boy, who had not spoken was looking at me with curiosity. I was the thing he was supposed to fear, supposed to avoid. He wanted to know why, I could see it in his face. It took all the will in the world to risk doing what i did next. I waved to him. He glanced back at his mother and brother who were distracted by what they were doing.

Then he waved back.

9 comments:

Frank_V said...

Fear is a learned response. If a child trips, if they are alone, they usually dust themselves off, and keep right on playing. Add an adult who overreacts to their booboos, and the child will respond by crying their heads off. Same with those of us with disabilities: If parents look upon us with fear, so will their children sooner or later.

Thanks sir Dave, for giving that child a chance to love us instead of fearing us.

bevd said...

What? What could she have possibly been GOING to say? 'I don't want to expose my children to... men in wheelchairs? to patient men waiting kindly? to an overweight man with decent propulsion technology? to two men in an elevator who might begin to suddenly make out? For goodness sakes, I can't stand it!

Unknown said...

Two acts of courage....to wave a hand in greeting....and to return the gesture and complete that human connection....
the triumph of hope over fear....
be well, Dave and Joe. Clairesmum

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

It's just impossible to think of how hard OTHER people make your life, without wanting to swat them 'with a 2 x 4 for the pointed lecture that follows.' (Can't remember the source of the quote.)

The casual cruelty - which would extend to anyone this woman thinks is different - is appalling.

She's doing her children no favors. And, when she herself needs something when she's older or less than perfect, it will come back to haunt her in the way that her boys shrink from her and 'forget' to call. It takes a lot of good parenting to overcome the prejudices - she's failing at her basic job.

tragicsandwich said...

I'm so sorry--but I'm so happy for you and the younger boy that you had that exchange later. Hopefully he will come to realize that whatever his mother is teaching him is wrong.

What she's teaching them is exactly what I don't want to teach my daughter.

Emily and Laura said...

As a parent, I'm truly appalled by that mother. And as a parent of a child with a disability, I'm outraged by the casual cruelty the mother displayed that my daughter has received far too much of in her life as well. But as a fan of you, Dave, all I have to say is congratulations for that tiny moment of teaching the younger boy that what he's been taught is wrong, wrong, wrong! I hope he smiled as he waved, but even if he didn't, that's a big step for him. And a triumph of human kindness over human cruelty for you.

Cathy Kirsch said...

I wish I was that child ready to get on the elevator. You may not have enjoyed it so much though. You see, I would have shouted out "Oh my God!!!! It's Dave Hingsburger"!!! Then proceeded to jump in only to activate the emergency stop button to allow me a few moments of your time so I could tell you how much respect and admiration I have for you.
I recognise reply may appear to miss the point of you post. But, actually it doesn't. I truly wish you could begin to comprehend that for every mislead person in the world there are 10 others that are thankful for all you have done and continue to do in your personal and professional life. For being a voice for those who do not have or have not yet dicovered their own.
WE all reconize you for the rock star you really are.

Cathy

L said...

If she develops a disability, or her children do, the attitudes that she's modelling to her children will really bite her in the behind.

Sherry-Lynn K said...

When my son was younger, probably about 8 or 9, we were in a line-up waiting... there was a little boy, probably about 4 or 5, looking at my son wide-eyed. His mom grabbed him turned him away and did the loud whisper, "Don't look at him!".
I turned to my son and quietly said, "He looks like he's very curious about your chair... would you like to explain it to him?" My son agreed and we approached the lady and her son. I crouched down and said to the little boy,"You look like you are wondering what this wheelchair is for." Wide-eyed, he nodded wordlessly, andmy son son gave him a lovely kid-version of why he uses a wheelchair... "When I was born, the part of my brain that's supposed to tell my legs what to do wasn't quite ready, so my legs don't work the way they're supposed to and I can't walk."
As the two boys chatted, I stood up and said to the mom, "It's ok, you know, if he looks...it's ok if he asks... but when you tell him not to look and turn him away, you teach him that there is something wrong with my son. Maybe now, the next time he sees someone in a wheelchair, he'll just think that they are using a wheelchair because they can't walk, and he won't be afraid or think there is something 'wrong'."
She admitted that she wasn't sure what to say or do, that she wasn't meaning to offend or teach her son to view people with disabilities as "less than"...hopefully she and her son both learned that day that a wheelchair is simply a way to get around.