Today we took Isaac to McDonald’s for lunch. This is not unusual in any way, but today we were going for a reason. Today was the “day of change” – a day that we are encouraged to go to McDonald’s and drop our change in that little box in front of the register – to support Ronald McDonald Houses around the world. We, of course, can’t deny a chance to support our RMH, so we collected change in the house and Isaac proudly sat up on the counter and dropped in his change, along with his wonderful big sister who pulled out her own wallet and dropped some change too.
Our friends met us today, the same friends we like to meet for dinner once a week. These friends are special for many reasons… their mama went to high school with Isaac’s mama, we didn’t know each other then – but our lives have brought us together now. The Bell family is pretty remarkable for other reasons too – besides having a crew of beautiful children, their children are also quite special. Their big kids are amazing, they are supportive and loving – and they have enveloped Isaac into their family so nicely. Their little kids are also quite special – they are both autistic. They are truly beautiful children (ALL of them), but the babies (as they are known in the family) have these eyes that you have to see to believe.
I sometimes find myself staring at these two beautiful children – because of the depth of those eyes. There is something truly remarkable there, but that is not what I want to focus on tonight.
We stepped out of our boxes a bit on Friday night, and we all met at IHOP – it had been a pretty crappy week and we all needed it. As usual, Isaac was thrilled to see his buddies. For a few minutes one of the babies was “stimming”. He was acclimating to his surroundings and taking it all in in his own way. His stimming was louder than the usual kid, but not horribly loud. My friend Melody used her gentle reminders to help calm and reassure him. In the middle of this a very unhappy lady (sitting quite a distance from us) expressed her disdain with some staring. Melody’s oldest daughter (who is an adult herself) approached the woman quietly and calmly to explain that her brother has autism – a very mature approach to a not so nice situation. In the end, this not so kind woman told Tyra that her brother was “ruining her dinner” and “shouldn’t be brought out in public”. I am furious now as I type these words.
In just a few short minutes Simmy calmed down, and sat and quietly ate his dinner. But this woman with an ugly attitude had changed our meal. What I said then is what I stand by now – she wasn’t going to be changed in one night, the next day she woke up and she was still an ugly person – ugly on the inside. Nothing said or done that night would change her.
What struck me is the absolute gall it takes to decide yourself that another human being shouldn’t be allowed in public, or to blatantly stare at a family that deals with more hurdles in a day than most of us face in a year. I’ve said it before – Isaac gets stares, and we address them accordingly – usually if we catch someone’s eye while they stare we can nip it right there. I have no problem explaining Isaac’s trach or feeding tube – and Melody’s family openly discusses autism. Her daughter did the right thing by calmly talking to this woman and educating her. Somewhere along the way we have become a pretty unforgiving, not very understanding society – and that makes me sad.
I don’t think there was a better way to handle that situation – Tyra showed her brothers and sisters how to honorably stand up to a bully and she showed them that she is willing to do that for them. Melody kept her kids calm and cool while this was going on, and once again faced a situation her family shouldn’t have to face with grace. I think the best way to handle something like this is to talk about it – and to stand up when we see others acting like bullies. Too often we sit back and watch, too worried to cause a scene, or step on somebody’s toes. It’s ok to speak up, and show support – you may not change the world in one encounter – but at the very least you may show somebody else that for every ugly bully there is someone who is willing to stand up to it…

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One thought on “kindness

  1. While a horrible experience it’s a great little story about the your resolve and especially the resolve of Melody and her family. It’s unfortunate but true and I so wish I had been there because I would have had a reply for that woman after she said those words to Tyra.

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