Sunday, July 01, 2007

Well Look At That

Everybody noticed.

Everybody stared.

Eventually even me.

We stopped at Petro-Can to fill up the car and had to wait until a lane cleared by the pump so we could pull in. We'd passed several other stations without line ups, but here we sat. Joe collects Petro-Points and refuses to gas anywhere else. It's one of his, um, quirks. I didn't notice anything at first, then I saw a young guy about twenty staring intently at something. I put my eyes on his gaze and slid along to see the object of his attention. "Oh, stop," I thought to myself. He was staring at a man, about the same age as he was, with Down Syndrome who was pumping gas into a car.

"Surely," I thought, "people are used to seeing the disabled amongst us being out and in the community doing every day things."

Then I noticed that everyone else was staring too. Really looking at this guy. This was more than "Wow look at the disabled guy pump gas." This was something else.

So I took in the whole scene. He was pumping gas into a car. The car was empty. Forgive me for what I thought, but I thought that his mom or dad was probably in the service center going to the washroom. He finished pumping gas, went in to the little kiosk and paid.

Now, I understood what people were looking at. staring at, seeing. He got into the car, on the driver's side.

Started the engine.

Drove off.

Even I reeled at that. I had heard of people with Down Syndrome driving, but I'd never seen it before. My automatic assumption was that he was a passenger. That because he had Down Syndrome he'd never ever be in the driver's seat.

They weren't staring at him. Those people at the gas station. I think that something different was going on. They were re-evaluating eveything they ever thought about someone with Down Syndrome. They were ripping apart pre-conceived notions. They were having prejudice challenged.

Admittedly, so was I.


Just when I thought that I had it all together, some guy with Down Sydrome drives me off the road. Makes me realize how deep my own prejudices run.

I wonder, though, about the effect he will have. On me, it was immediate. I reached inside myself and raised the bar - set expectations higher - not for them - for me.

But I wonder if that twenty something guy who's stare I'd noticed. Should he ever get the news that his wife is carrying a baby with Down Syndrome, will he remember the guy with the car, pumping gas. The guy who drove off. The guy who is living a life, unpredicted. The guy doing things, unexpected. The guy who dreams, unencumbered.

I truly hope so.


lina said...

wow, that is most definetly the best story I have heard all week-end and yes, as I read I made all the same assumptions you did...shame on me!
thanks for noticing and for bringing this story to all of us!

Jessica Bettcher said...

Great story Dave. I really enjoyed this one!

All 4 My Gals said...

I think Tarenne will drive. She can sit on my lap and drive the van up our driveway as well as the other 3 girls...okay better than the younger two. Heck, maybe better than me. LOL I have met a gal in Cinci who drives. I'll let you know in 10 years what happens in our corner of the world. :)

Amy Flege said...

oh that is wonderful. love the story!I hope it helps that one person, if they too, should be blessed with a little one with something extra!

Unknown said...

What a great scene, and one I hope happens more and more in the future. I'm glad your bar was raised, as it makes me realize that even you [whom I admire greatly] can look at something new and realize a hidden preconceived notion....that you didn't even know was there.

I just adore your make me think!

seahorse said...

That was a powerful ending to an important, and so well observed and honest piece.

Kari said...

I was so pleased to find my way here today. This story had a huge emotional reaction from me. When my son Tristan was born I was informed he had Down Syndrome and unfortunatley I was devastated because I hadn't ever met anyone that had Down Syndrome. When Tristan was 4 weeks old it was my older sons 16th Birthday and we got in the car to go to town when I suddenly burst out crying. You see I was taking him for his drivers license test and all I could think was this was a day I'd never get to experience with Tristan. I don't know if Tristan will ever drive or not but I don't ever cry about it anymore. I know if he wants to he will. I agree just reading this story could help someone tremendously. I sure needed it a few years ago. I love your blog fabulous writing! I hope you don't mind if I share this story on my blog.

matthewsmom97 said...

My son is 9 yrs.old and has shown interest in learning how to drive since he was 7. I tell his siblings although I allow him to steer sometimes and change gears he will never beable to enjoy a ride taken alone. Well, you have certainly changed that!!! This is one more exciting possibility to look forward to. Thanks for sharing...

Jeff said...

I am glad I heard about your experience and found my way to your blog.

I have been amazed over the last 6 years since my son was born with Down syndrome how many preconcieved ideas I had about people.

I hope many people at the station drove away thinking new thoughts and ideas about individuals with Down syndrome but maybe took a second look at some of the things in their own lives that they were allowing to hold them back from living the life of thier dreams!

And they then decided to go do something about them.


Imperfect Christian said...

Isn't it amazing what can happen when we stop putting limitations on people and let them discover for themselves what they are capable of?

Again, beautiful entry!

Stephanie said...

I have been truly blessed today. I never would have found your blog except for checking a chat room for parents of DS children that I visit once in a blue moon. I have two children, both boys, one is 6 and my youngest is 2 and has DS. Thank you for your wonderful words! When I found out that Reese had DS, he was a day old. I thought ok, big deal, there are worse diagnosis'. I have always treated him as just another kid. We are fortunate that he has no medical issues. He is functioning above the bar that the medical community puts to him. I challenge him as I challenge my older son. I won't say that he surprises me by meetin the challenge, but I am so proud of him. I truly believe that Reese responds to his environment. We are a very loving, affectionante family with a strong faith in God. We are an intellectual family in that we explore, discover and learn all we can about whatever we are curious about, be it through reading, museums, videos, games, or outdoors. Reese responds to this in a way that any child would. I am thankul that my parents raised me to be open minded enough to not place sterotypical limits on my child just because he has a "syndrome." I am not unaware that Reese may have dificulty in the future, but if they come they are challenges to be met.
You are a special person. You are touching lives to far beyond geographical limits. You are a talented writer and awesome human being. I feel so blessed to have found your blog.
May you be blessed in all your endeavors in the future!

Christina M said...

Wow, that is great! I am a mother of a DS boy (only 1) and I love those inspirational stories!

Thanks for the post

wendy said...

I have worked with developmentally disabled people for many, many years and have only known one who drove. I would have been taken aback too. What you wrote about the 20 something and would he remember this man if he learned his child had Down's made me think of my cousin. He and his wife had a baby with Down's. My mother reported this to me as if the baby had been still-born. She is nearly 85 and has ideas that reflect many of her generation...she always thinks of my work as "depressing", too. My cousin and his wife, however, embraced this mother now has several of his pictures on her fridge...him as an adorable baby, an even cuter toddler. The pictures show me a little boy with mischief in his smile and a bit of an attitude...excellent! He'll need it!

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

I notice that you think the 'Handicapped Kids' thread on ARRSE has gone?

It hasn't - it's being pruned and improved and will be back shortly.

With much justice! :)

Thanks for the support!

viagra said...

Excellent post and it's a deep story, there are to many topics behind the main idea, but it'd be nice if you can add something else about the Down Syndrome. 23jj

Nathan'smama said...

Another wonderful post. Thank you!