Children don’t choose how or when they are born. They don’t choose what they look like, or how they sound, or what they love to do. And yet, those are all of the qualities that they will be judged the most harshly on in life. People won’t stop to get to know their history or their likes and dislikes. Strangers won’t take a moment to consider what the child’s life must be like.
Strangers make a snap decision, and sometimes, if you’re really unlucky, that stranger will say something horrible without caring that they might devastate an innocent child.
One old woman won’t stand for it.
I’m in graduate school and my paying job is as a behavioral therapist for a few families that have kids with autism. I often take my clients out to the local mall or whatever to engage them with the community.
One of my clients, “Sean,” has been diagnosed with both autism and a rare chromosomal abnormality. He’s nonverbal and has severe physical and mental handicaps, but the dude is seriously one of the coolest people ever. He’s obsessed with one of the department stores in the mall that employs pianists. I’ve spent hours sitting by the piano and listening to them play, which is fine because it’s easy money for me and it’s probably his most favorite thing ever to do.
The other week we were in there hanging out. “Sean” is standing up and rocking back and forth on his feet, clapping and squealing to himself at times. He may have been a little louder than the average customer, but it was a busy Thursday afternoon and he wasn’t being disruptive in any way.
Lo and behold, a random woman comes up behind me and taps me forcefully on my shoulder. She tells me that Sean is being way too loud, for which I immediately politely apologize for. She continues to say that “people like ‘Sean’ shouldn’t be out in public” and I “should be ashamed to have a child like that.”
A few minutes later, the woman returns with her children and strikes up a short conversation with the pianist. Most of the pianists are elderly women that are just there to get out of the house, and since Sean and I are there all the bloody time I know them all by name and they often sit down with us during their breaks for small talk.
The woman asks the pianist if some of her brood could play on the piano, as her oldest is “just the talk of her art school” and is “incredibly brilliant at the piano for her age level!” The pianist looked her dead in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, but we try not to encourage rude behavior in our stores. Perhaps children as brilliant as yours shouldn’t be out in public?”
As the woman stood there stunned, the pianist turned to Sean and gave him a high five.
We should all strive to be like this old woman, and nothing like the judgmental mother. What kind of example is she setting for her own children when she takes the effort to cut down a sweet child? She made a terrible decision that day, but at least the older woman was there to shut her down instantly! This could have been a movie. Perfection.
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