As the kids are in school virtually, we packed their Chromebooks and headed to the airport. We decided to visit my parents in Florida for ten days.
We checked our luggage with the airline, then made our way through the security line. When we stepped up to the security guard at the podium, he took our boarding passes and asked our names, stern-faced, one-by-one: “What is your name, young man?”
Wil wore a buff as his face-covering. His ears are small and lower set, the bridge of his nose is nearly non-existent (which makes wearing glasses a challenge too, but sure makes for a cute face). A buff stays put on his face, unlike a typical mask, and thus the only face-covering he is agreeable to wearing for extended periods of time.
The security guard asked again, and his sternness intensified. With this second request, I understood what was happening.
“Sir,” I said to the security guard, “sometimes he pauses when he talks. But it’s hard to see that with his mask on. Could I pull it down so you can hear him better?” I pulled down Wil’s mask and I heard the security guard gasp.
“Oh, I’m ah, oh I’m sorry.” The security guard said. “I just, ah, needed to know his name.”
“It’s ok. He can tell you. He just needs an extra minute sometimes.” I looked at Wil. “Tell him your name.”
“W-w-w-wil Taylor.” If the security guard had asked Wil to sing “Knockin’ Boots” by Luke Bryan, Wil would have belted out every single word without hesitation. But sometimes when Wil talks, the words get stuck. But the security guard didn’t know that. By his reaction, he likely didn’t know Wil had Down syndrome until I pulled his buff down.
“Thank you, Wil Taylor.” The security guard said and handed Wil his boarding pass with a smile that I didn’t know existed moments before.
We placed our carry-on bags on the conveyor belt to be inspected. The security guard behind the conveyor belt flashed Wil a huge smile. She leaned forward and asked me, “Are you Mom?”
I responded affirmatively and she asked Wil’s age. “Oh, he’ll have to take his shoes off then,” she said almost apologetically. “Can he take his shoes off by himself?”
“Yes, thanks. Wil, take off your shoes.”
“Will he be able to walk through the security panel and lift his arms over his head?” She treated Wil much younger than his years, but I knew her intent, and that was to make this as pleasant a process as possible. I appreciated her kindness.
Later as we went out for dinner, the server asked, “What would you like to order, Sir Wil?” She waited patiently as he got stuck on getting out the word “cheeseburger.” Once he did, she then asked him what he’d like on it, without giving me a glance. He listed the condiments he wanted then he added, “and a Sprite.” She came back, not with a kiddie cup as some servers do, but with a big, clear glass full of bubbly Sprite.
We all meet one another at varying levels of understanding and acceptance for our life experiences. I’ve discovered that no matter how varied our understanding is, we can always meet one another on common ground through an extended smile or an added kindness. And sometimes, as you watch the bubbles of a Sprite rise to the top, all feels level. It’s both the easiest thing to take for granted and the biggest thing in your world.