Saturday, May 5, 2012

Changing the Way We Think

The best advice I've received since Sam was born came from Kevin's Aunt and Cousin, who both urged us to always see Sam first as a boy, and secondly as a boy with Down syndrome.  Instead of referring to a child with Downs as a "Downs kid" or "Downs child", we should always say "a kid with Downs" or "a child with Downs," because first and foremost, they are a person...a person with Downs, not "Downs with a person." Right?

Well, that very concept makes me think so much about what I say about Sam to others, or rather "how" I say it.  When Sam was first born, when someone would approach me to ooh and aah at him, I felt this overwhelming urge to blurt out "by the way, he has Down syndrome."  That lasted for a few weeks, and was very frustrating and confusing for me.  I felt like I wanted people to know, but at the same time - did it really matter?  He is just a baby,...with Downs.  I didn't need to explain anything to anyone.  Now I let people ooh and aah, and just stand back and smile with pride.

It also makes me stop and think about other things we say.  For instance, the "R" word is no longer a part of my vocabulary.  I never really used it very often, but I have on occasion referred to a poor driver on the roads as a "R", or referred to a situation as being very "R'd". I had never really thought about it much, but it's really flipping offensive. The other night, I checked Facebook to see what the buzz for the evening was, and someone was using that damn R word!!  The fact of the matter is that my son will have some degree of mental retardation, and when you use the word "Retard" for ANY other reason than speaking respectfully of a person who has such a condition, it's really uncool.  Ah, it felt good to get that off my chest!

We (all the kids and I) were in Walmart earlier today, and a mentally handicapped lady approached us.  I thought she wanted to see the baby, but as it turns out, she was just fascinated with the kickball that was in our cart.  She was with who I presume was her sister and a helper, and they had all they could do to keep her from "bothering" us.  It honestly wasn't bothering me at all, it was kind of fun to see how something so simple as a ball brought her so much joy.  And truth be told, with my three daughters in tow, I saw that it could be a lesson.  Because, sure enough, as we were walking away, my youngest girl said, (a bit loudly) "mom, that lady was sooo weird."  I only hope I was the only one that heard her.  I shushed her, and briefly reminded her that that wasn't a very nice thing to say about someone.  It gave me the opportunity to remind my girls that it's very important to be kind and respectful to everyone, including someone who might seem or look a little differently.  When the girls have asked before about people who have a disability or appear to be slightly different, we simply say "that's the way God made them."

We could all take a step back and reflect a bit on how we think and speak of each other, how we judge those who are imperfect, ...those who are different.  Sometimes our differences are beyond our control, something that we didn't exactly choose for ourselves - like Down syndrome, autism, handicaps we're born with, and many others.  Other times, our differences are a result of choices we make - like how we dress, wear our hair, speak or act.  Whatever our differences are, whether God given or chosen ourselves, everyone deserves love and respect.  Because deep down on the inside, we're all made of the same stuff.  Challenge yourself to change the way you think the next time you encounter someone who's "different" than you.  If you dig deep, you might just realize we're all more alike than we thought.

1 comment:

  1. what you talk about at the beginning of your blog is actually referred to as "people first" language. i use it all the time in my line of work. if only everyone would see the person first and not the disability EVERYONE would be so much happier because of the amount of respect we would all be showing each other. keep up the blog amanda, the updates and pics are awesome!!