“Dad! Look at the kid! Ugh! Why does he look like that?”
My face turned hot as I whipped my son’s wheelchair to face away from the speaker. I turned my ears to the little boy and his father behind me, frantically willing the parent to grasp this teaching moment. Instead, my heart sunk as the man uttered a quick, “Yep” and hurried his boy away.
Angry tears stung my eyes and I struggled to swallow the lump growing in my throat. I knelt beside my boy and kissed his cheek.
His sweet eyes met mine and I whispered, “Don’t worry buddy. You are amazing. That dad and his boy really missed out on meeting you.”
My son’s face spread into a grin. “How are you always so nice?” I asked him. “I want to punch people. You forgive them and keep smiling.”
He smirked again as I gave his soft cheek one more smooch and wheeled him to my husband so I could take some time to sit and cool down.
As I re-played the events of the morning, I began to remember time after time when my son, as well as my other children with special needs, has endured cruel stares, comments, and interactions.
“What is wrong with him?”
“Well it’s not like he would even appreciate having greater quality of life.”
“How can she do school? It’s not like she can earn grades like other children.”
“You are adopting children with special needs? But what about vacations and holidays?”
“She creeps me out.”
“Is he going to die soon?”
“You are such a saint for caring for children like that.”
“You are going to take him/her on vacation too? Um…wow.”
“What is her lifespan?”
“Why is your kid so scary looking?”
“We didn’t include them because we didn’t know if they would want to be included.”
I could go on and on.
So often, my darling children have been overlooked, underestimated, and either unseen or too seen.
They have been straight up ignored. They have been treated like burdens and regarded as inconveniences.
While I realise that these interactions can be birthed from ignorance, inexperience, and even a messy but genuine effort to acknowledge my son’s existence, I always come to the conclusion that if people were willing to contemplate what they say and do can be received by others, the world would be such a better place.
As I replayed these painful memories in my mind, I asked myself what the answer was.
One thing that makes me livid faster than lightening is my children being treated unkindly.
Sometimes, I have responded to unkindness solely from my anger. I have returned rude comments with harsh words and inconsiderate stares or cold looks. Did these instances ever bear fruit or change on behalf of the offender? No. Not really.
Today, as I reflected on the radiant smile of my son and the endless grace, he tends to give others, I felt the answer was clear: the most powerful response to unkindness is kindness itself.
While rage may cause others to back down or feel shame, the times that I have seen change and teachable moments are the times when I have returned even the most horrific comments and stares with warm greetings and friendly introductions.
Anger and lashing out push’s others away. While at times that seems to be the easiest solution, my heart’s desire is to bring people together.
I want to be a creator of inclusion not isolation. I want others to see the amazing gifts and worth of my children, not the grizzly teeth of their mama bear.
If I truly believe that discrimination and unkindness must end, then I must be willing to lavish love on everyone around me. Everyone.
The very reason I am so defensive of my children is because they are human—humans who are magnificently created and inherently worthy of being seen, respected, and loved.
If I believe those things to be true of my children, then I also must believe them of all who are simply human and therefore deserving of abundant grace and kindness unending.