Friday, February 21, 2014

It Shouldn't Have Happened ... Again

This may, or may not surprise you, but I don't like candy very much. I don't include 'chocolate' in the category of 'candy,' of course, it being the only edible that I would petition to be included on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So that is where we begin, I'm not your neighbourhood candy man.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a small event where there were people with intellectual disabilities in attendance along with a smattering of staff around the edges of the gathering. I was getting set up to do a presentation and a couple of support workers were talking with me. A fellow with a disability stood off to the side, waiting for a break in the conversation, I nodded to him, letting him know that I'd see him and I'd speak with him next.

When the women I was speaking to were finishing up, he move forward, carefully. He moved as if he'd learned, long ago, to be constantly wary. He moved as if he knew that there was the possibility of hurt at any moment, at any time, from any one. He moved, then, with courage. His hand slowly reached in his pocket and he pulled out some candies. He carefully counted out three. He handed one to me, never has a hand approached me with such gentleness, such caution. I took the candy, thanked him very much for his generosity. He brightened, smiled.

He turned to the woman standing beside him and she saw the candy coming towards her, offered by a gentle hand and a generous heart. "What! You trying to make me fat?" she laughed. His face registered pain, and me, my fat self had to restrain itself from responding. The other woman, before even being offered the third mint, said, "I don't eat candy." Then. They left.

He stood there.

I saw his hand.

With two candies in it.


I said to him, "If those are still on offer, I know two little girls who would love that candy." He looked at me, "What are their names?" I said, "Ruby and Sadie," and as I spoke their names, he started to cry. 


Anonymous said...

"He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick, until He has led justice to victory."

Sad to see that some people are unaware of the bruised reeds and break them with abandon!

Anonymous said...

My heart physically hurt reading this. The pain of an attempt at human connection denied. I'm so glad you were there, Dave.

Naomi said...

And you just made me cry too.
Thank you for your stories Dave. For reminding us of the everyday callousness that shouldn't happen.

Bev said...

I think what bothers me most about these women's reactions is that it is all about them. I far too often notice this in support staff and I fight this tendency in myself. The women aren't unkind, they are so centered around themselves that they didn't even see this gentleman. I worry that we have become a society of people who are solpsistic, who don't notice, who aren't focused on the needs of anyone but ourselves.

Rosemary said...

Unbelievably self-centered and thoughtless. Thank God you were not.

Anonymous said...

Would it have been so hard to graciously take the candy and discreetly dispose of it later? Sigh.


Molly said...


Maggie said...

Dave, I think what you did was just right ... and I keep thinking about what those support folks might have done instead of what they did.

I'm embarrassed to acknowledge how old I was before someone taught me an alternative those women could have used: "How thoughtful! What a lovely gift! I'm SO sorry I can't accept it for myself [optionally giving a reason involving medical condition, or not].

Would it be okay with you if I gave it to my niece Ruby? or would you like to save it to give to someone here who can enjoy it?

I so appreciate your kindness in offering it to me; I can see why you like it and am honored that you would share with me."

Sometimes I use a briefer version of this, but the idea is to convey, honestly and with feeling, that one is sensible of the giver's intention and want to honor that intention even while necessarily refusing the gift.

I'm so glad you were there for him.

Unknown said...

That physically hurt to read.

B. said...

That hurt.

Anonymous said...


I read you blog quite often and each time you teach me something new or reawaken some old knowledge from long ago. I do not work with people w/ disabilities. I work with middle school aged children and this lesson applies to them, actually all ages, as well. I was taught to accept a gift graciously and so as someone who struggles with my weight, while I may not want the candy, cupcake, or treat that is being offered, I say thank you and comment on how good it looks and all are happy. On the few occasions my "diet" confused the issue and I refused, the crumpling face or look of dismay was enough to make me quickly change my mind and accept the gift. Reading this tonight, I am so grateful you revealed the true gift is in the human exchange as equals and the offering is just the vehicle for that to occur. Once again I will be silently thanking Dave for having opened my eyes and heart and helping me to remember my profession as a teacher is more about connecting with other human beings than it is about the Science Common Core Standards.
Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Oh, my.

Thank goodness you saw him, at least.

Susan said...

Oh Dave...