Parked. Just sitting watching the world go by. Joe taking the shopping cart through an aisle to narrow for my chair, so I get to just park. And wait and watch. A young mother comes into the store with two children. One, a beautiful girl in a strolller, the other a boy maybe 6 or 7. Mom's got a lot to do, getting the girl out of her stroller and into the baby thingy they've got attached to some adapted grocery carts and then fold up the stroller put it away and then ... the list probably seems endless to her but her son bores quickly and then spots me.
At first he stares, but then he slowly walks over, looking right at me.
"Are you sad?" was his first question.
"Cause you can't walk," he seemed surprised that I needed clarification.
"No, I'm not sad," I said, truthfully.
"What's wrong with you?" straightforward and direct, I like this. Mom hears him and is about to call him back, I quickly smile up at her letting her know this is OK, she smiles back thankfully.
"Nothing's wrong with me."
"Then why are you in a wheelchair."
"Because I can't walk." The simplest answers are the best. Mom pushes the cart over closer, to listen, to supervise, I'm not sure.
"And that doesn't make you sad?"
"No, it doesn't, I just move around different than you."
"Oh," He processed it for a bit, you could see him think, "but it's harder isn't it?"
"Yes, it is, but that's OK too."
"Do you ever ask God why you are in a chair?"
"No, because I know why," I stated.
"Well, then, why?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
He nodded, with the look kids get on their face when they think that they are going to be tricked.
"Why are you a little boy?"
"I jus'am" he said.
"Well, me too, I 'jus'am' too."
He nods, satisfied, "That's cool."
Mom gathers him up and they are heading into the store, "Thanks, I've been spending weeks talking to him about why people are what they are, I think that helped.
We got into the car and Joe asked, "What was up with that little black kid you were talking to?
"We came to an agreement, he's 'jus'am' and I'm 'jus'am' and we're both OK.
"I shouldn't leave you alone."
When I was maybe 7 or 8 years old some girl about my age blurted out to me, "What's wrong with your ears?" My reflex response was to say, "Nothing," which really perplexed her. Only afterwards did I realize that she must have been reacting to my hearing aids. Alas, if I had had the maturity and insight to give that girl the same kind of teaching moment you gave that little boy!
Off the point, but I wonder if you knew that the first anniversary of the international disability rights treaty (called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD) is coming up this March 30, 2008. The advocacy organization RatifyNow is celebrating with a blog swarm, and they're looking for more bloggers (and even writers without blogs) to participate. If this seems interesting to you, the details are at http://ratifynow.org/latest-news/blog-swarm/
Hmmmm... "Jus'am"... I love the simplicity and honesty of children, and how he accepted that as a perfectly good reason. I thought about the time you were out with friends and the woman at the table next to you kept asking you 'why' and how it was okay to tell her because she was a nurse. I wonder if "Jus'am" would have shut her up? ;)
This was soooo beautiful to read! Obviously it all made perfect sense to the little boy, who won't forget this important lesson, not in his whole life.
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