Last night finishing up an errand, Matt and I grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant before heading home. There was a family at a table near us. I’d guess the father was in his mid-thirties and his kids were younger teens. I overheard this particular father teasing his daughter in an amiable way. Then he said, “You are special ed!” He was teasing his daughter that she was acting silly.
UGH! What a specifically negative message to send, especially to your child! Oh how I wish Wil was there with us. I would have walked over and said, “Oh, I overheard you were in special ed! So wonderful! This is my son, Wil. He’s in special ed too! This is fantastic. I love how circumstances like these bring people together!”
But Wil was home, and not with us at dinner last evening. So I sat there thinking of how to approach this situation. There really was no good way. I was eavesdropping. And the message I wanted to send would have been lost by me interrupting this family’s dinner. It hurt to hear the message this father sent. In our current times, with inclusion in schools, awareness has taken great forward strides. Clearly, there are many more forward strides to take.
Shortly after I overheard the aforementioned comment, I got up and walked toward the restroom. On my way there, I came upon a large table. There were probably 12 people seated around the table. As I passed by a young woman, perhaps in her 20s, seated at this large table waved energetically to me and gave me a big smile. The woman next to her smiled and said, “She’s waving at everyone today!” The entire table was jovial. I could see this young woman who waved at me had some physical and likely intellectual delays. And she was the highlight of this merry group.
I’m not one to believe in coincidences. And I don’t believe the simultaneous occurence of the father making a “special ed” joke and the young woman’s uplifting smile and wave fall into the coincidence category. I may not know the young woman personally, but I have an idea of what her world is like. I know why that entire table was lifted by her waving and smiling. There is something immensely special about living with people with different abilities. I know that special world from the inside and for that I’m extremely thankful. Sadly, the family next to our table does not. I do pray they drank too much pop and needed to make a trip to the restroom. If they did, there is no doubt they would have received a wave from the young woman at the big, happy table, too. She was too far from their table to eavesdrop like I did, but if she was she would have no grudges against what they said. She would treat them as equals, happy to share a wave with another person just because she can.
Just as it should be. No joke about it.