Thursday, August 4, 2016

When Strangers Stare

A friend recently asked me if I had ever experienced someone staring or gawking at Tyler.  The answer is, of course, yes.

There are lots of reasons that people do stare.  Often times we would see children stare when Tyler would be loud or draw some attention to himself.  I've never felt put off by this because kids are just kids.  In fact I want them to be curious about the differences that they see.  I can only hope that the parents are solid enough to explain things to them the right way.

People may stare because they admire that Tyler is enjoying himself in public.  These type of stares usually come with a smile or nod or wink which is a sign of respect.  Or perhaps Tyler reminds them of someone special in their own lives.  Or maybe a person is just trying to figure him out.  All of these reasons have never been a problem for me and I know Tyler doesn't mind.  In fact if Ty is drawing a bit of attention to himself by laughing loud or being vocal I am likely to offer a witty but friendly comment to break the ice with someone else.

For the most I can even deal with people who look away or look somehow disturbed.  I assume that they are just not properly educated about special needs, or that they have some shortcoming in their lives that they can't open their heart to someone as wonderful as Tyler.

On very rare occasions Tyler has had someone be unkind to him in public, usually with an ignorant remark.  Admittedly I wouldn't handle that as gracefully as I should.  I've never physically engaged anyone or anything like that, but I have bowed up and showed my teeth like a bear protecting his cub. My role at times required me to be his protector and even though I probably couldn't fight my way out of a wet bag I would have thrown myself to the hazard to protect him.

But with age comes wisdom and when I look back at even those who would have laughed at him, or stared at him with an unkind eye, or made a comment about him, the only person they hurt was themselves.  They obviously had some very dark parts of their heart.  Their disrespect and disregard only shows their weakness and that they have experienced disregard at some point of their own lives. While I feel for them, I cannot waste positive energy on their negative energy.

By far there are more people in this world that will support you even as a stranger.  This is what we need to remember.  We once had an older couple in a restaurant come up to us and say that even though our son had special needs he was better behaved than most other kid he sees there.  People go out of the way to hold doors, or step aside and allow us to go first in a line, or just say hi and pat me on the shoulder.  Every one of these is a wonderful gift to the soul.  And with each of these gifts, an ugly stare just fades away.

Be well and God bless.  Tom

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