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I have had a very surprising past few days. I wanted to share it here because I think what I have experienced has happened to everyone at one point. The surprising part of what I'm about to share, the most shocking part of all came from the most unexpected place; the point of origin! The thing that caused me the most pain ended up surprising me the most and spun my head clean around.
Being a Mom of 3 extremely active boys so close in age, I have gotten my fair share of disapproving looks. Looks that speak volumes without any sound like the, "you must need a glass of wine before bed" look, the "what are you crazy?!?!" look and so on. When you add the extra twist of having a son...the oldest son...with special needs the looks turn into stares and elevate to "you must like to gamble" looks, and "how irresponsible" looks, especially when my boys were younger.
The looks and stares I can handle, it's when people forget to fix their mute button and add comments to those stares that I have a hard time remembering my mute button works just fine.
To add another level of pain to this soup and salad combo is when all of it comes from a totally unexpected source, a friend. When something painful like this comes from a friend it's worse than if it came from family in a way. Family is family, you're stuck with them whether you like them or not. A friend is a friend because you share a common respect for one another...at least that's the way I see it.
So when a friend says something so shockingly hurtful it knocks this chick-a-dee for a loop. That respect and trust you thought was there is gone and maybe it's just me but I feel like I'm swimming in the Bermuda Triangle without a life jacket. Between the seconds the comment is made and the moment something comes out of my mouth, thoughts are racing through my mind like "what the hell just happened?!?!"..."wait, where am I?!?!" Then something really profound squeaks out like "uhhhh...what???" Of course the moment I race out of there I snap out of my state of shock and my mind is flooded with witty, well said, intelligent come-backs. But it's too late. As far as I'm concerned my "friend" has no idea who I am nor will they ever.
After days of mourning and dodging...the "friend" takes me by complete surprise and offers one of the most heartfelt apologies I've ever heard. My "friend" was completely taken over by emotion delivering the apology...it was gut-wrenching. After I left they realized how what they had said could be so painful. They too had an "uhhhh..." moment. When in fact they were taken aback by the fact that we share a a huge common belief...having a child with special needs is one of the greatest gifts a person could ever receive. So few people receive this gift, so it is to be treasured.
It's not just our commonalities we share that I call this person my friend, it is because of the brutally raw apology I call this person my friend. It takes a lot of, well guts, guts and more guts to right a wrong such as what I just shared with you, and I can't even tell you how important that is to me. I could have easily marked this instance as another introduction to one more ignorant comment...but instead it introduced me to a truly unique individual.
The whole purpose of me sharing this particular experience with you is this...March 21, 2011 marks the annual return of World Down Syndrome Day. Thousands of people will join this celebratory movement worldwide in numerous ways by showing their support of people with Down syndrome; be it in the news, at their school, on the street corner, on their t-shirt, their Facebook status, etc...
My son, Ty and I have one simple request of you on World Down Syndrome Day...be aware that your language can effect those around you, be it intentional or not. Make a concentrated effort to make those around you with or without Down syndrome or another type of intellectual disability FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES. Our hope is that your one day of thoughtfulness will turn into two, then three, then who knows how many. The sky is the limit!
Happy World Down Syndrome Day!
To read more curious thoughts by myself and Ty, visit our blog www.tysadventures.wordpress.com