He seemed a bit nervous at first. He was at our book table at the NADD conference in Columbus scanning the table. He spotted the two books we have on masturbation and I swear he blanched a bit. I smiled inwardly. He didn't pick up anything, he just stood there looking. I asked him if he needed any help. He sighed. Yes, he wanted help. He wasn't at the NADD conference, he was attending the conference for property managers in another part of the hotel. He said that at lunch he overheard people at other tables talking about bullying and teasing of disabled kids. Nothing he said could have made me happier. That was the subject of my morning keynote. Speakers like knowing that they've sparked conversation.
I told him that the book, the aRe word, was sold out. He said that what he was looking for was a book for kids about bullying and teasing especially of kids with disabilities. He went on to explain that he had two kids who were attending the local school. He said that when he heard the conversations at the other tables he got worried that his kids one day might be confronted with someone with a disability and might be tempted to discriminate at best or bully at worst. He said that there was no way he wanted his kids to behave that way. I showed him one of our children's books that had characters with disabilities in it and was about both teasing and tolerance. He actually asked, "Can I buy this even if I'm not at this conference." Ummm, yes. He paid for the book, said thanks and then headed back to his conference.
The world just may get better.
And so did the day.
About an hour later another young man (to me 40 is young) came and asked if he could tell me a story about his two boys. Of course, public speakers and blog writers never turn that opportunity down. His two boys are typical brothers with a difference. One has an intellectual disability. He says that the kids fight as all kids do but that he has to watch them because the kid with the disability can really take the kid without one. As it turned out both boys were being bullied at school.
As a dad, he did all that he could do, including talking to the school. The school was aware of the problem but did nothing about it. (To schools 'being aware' in their minds is often equivilent to doing something about it.) One day his typical kid asked his father's permission to take on the bully and fight him if necessary. Dad didn't like the idea but said, "If that's what you have to do to make it stop, go ahead." Well, the kid took on the bully and the bullying stopped. Dad just assumed that the bullying stopped for both kids but he was wrong.
A few weeks later he got the sense that something was bothering his disabled son so he asked and was told that he was still being bullied. He asked his son why he didn't take on the bully like his brother did, if he could beat up his brother and the brother could beat up the bully, it seemed logical. His boy said that he wouldn't hit the other kid because he wouldn't his someone with a disability. The dad was taken aback and asked if the bully was another kid in the special classes. His son said, "No, he has a disability with his heart." Dad said, "You mean he has heart problems." His son looked at him and said, "He doesn't know how to love."
That was the disability that his son felt sorry for. That the only disability that can cripple. That's the only disability that is deserving of pity.
Good parents. Good kids. Good future.
Some equations are truly simple.