She walked with real purpose. Looking straight ahead. Though she was in a mall, she didn't browse, stop to look at things in the stores or the people flowing around her. She looked like she had a destination and the mall was an obstacle in her path. Forgive me for saying this but even after all these years I sometimes find it really hard to tell how old someone with Down Syndrome is - beyond childhood, teenager, adult that is. I would guess that she may have been thirty. I was waiting out side the dollar store where Joe was in a lineup buying me 4 new pairs of glasses and I was people watching.
Just before she got to me, I saw a woman come up to her and bring her up short with a conversation, the woman with Down Syndrome, looking annoyed, stopped, listened to what the woman had to say, dug in her purse and handed her a card. Then, without waiting for the woman to move out of her way, or saying a single word, she just pushed past and then there she was striding past me.
The woman read the card and then got visibly angry. I heard her mumbling something as she walked away. Joe came out and I said, "Follow that woman" so we meanandered behind her. I hoped, and my hope was rewarded. Finally, about halfway down the mall, she tossed out the card in a trash bin.
I broke away from Joe to go to the bin, when he saw what I was doing - I hadn't had time to explain, when he came out of the store we immediately gave chase - "you aren't rummaging around in the garbage." But by then I'd pulled the lid off and could see that the can had been recently emptied and the card was resting on the bottom. It was a real reach but I got it. I put the lid back on and then realized that I had an audience of at least twenty people, all stopped, all with tears of pity in their eyes.
Screw'em, I got the card.
I tucked it quickly behind me in my bag. Joe was desperate to get out of the mall. We got into the car and he handed me the wheelchair bag right away. I had explained to him on the way what I had seen and why I went into the garbage bin. So, he was curious now too. I held the bag in my lap and waited until he got back in the car after loading our shopping and the chair into the car. I found the note.
And read it. It was the size of a business card and on one side it said:
People with disabilities don't need tolerance, acceptance or pity instead we need equality, opportuntiy and respect.
On the other side it said:
Pick the one that applies to you:
I am not lost and do not need your assistance.
I am not a little child and do not need your help.
I am going somewhere, I am not wandering around.
I do not talk to strangers - you should follow that advice yourself.
There was no sign that this had been printed by an agency, it looked like something you'd get printed up at one of those business stores printing kiosks. I loved it. Still got it. I've decided that I'm going to hand this out the next time I have someone intrude on my life with assistance. I think it is a cool way to deal with it.
I still picture her in the mall walking along with such determination. I'm glad that she has a way of dealing with intrusion but hope that she hasn't lost the joy of the walk because of the regularity of interuption.
But more power to her.
Although she didn't look like she needed much more.