Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oh Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

Yesterday afternoon Eric was listening to Moody Radio's Chris Fabry Live program.  During the first hour Mr. Fabry was talking with Emily Colson, a Christian author and the mother of an autistic son.  She was discussing her experience with her son in a movie theater at Christmas which you can read about in her own words HERE.  To sum up her experience her son, Max, did not handle the volume level of the movie and he yelled out a few times.  Some fellow movie goers were not very understanding and there was a thunderous applause when she and her son voluntarily exited the theater.  Grown adults were acting like schoolyard bullies; in a movie theater in front of their children.  If you do not read the entire article you must at least read, in her words, how these "adults" behaved:

"I threw my hand up toward them in a stop motion. It works for policemen. And I desperately, achingly, wanted it to stop. “Ok. Ok,” I said. “Just give us a minute.” It takes both great finesse and a forklift for Max to leave quickly. My heart leapt into my throat as if it were trying to make an escape before the rest of us. At another time I might have defended our right to be there, but I could hear a strange rumbling of underground thunder. After a minute of dust-flinging commotion, Max stood up beside me, with Patty soon to follow.

And the thunder grew louder.

It was applause for our exit. It was the sound of an angry mob chasing us away with their jeers and taunts.

“And don’t come back,” I heard as we slowly made our way down the stairs in the dark.
I tried to block Max from the view of the crowd, my every step labored, detached, brittle. I wanted to throw my arms around Max to remind him, and everyone else, of just how deeply he is loved. But I couldn’t make my arms work. As we neared the exit, passing center stage, I heard a voice from the back of the theater. It was a man shouting over the thunder of the crowd like a crack of lightening.
“He’s retarded.”

I lost all bearings. I even lost track of watching Max. I stopped and turned toward the sea of faces lit up by the screen behind me. They were colorless, floating, with their little fish eyes watching our every move. The movie must have been showing on top of my silhouette. I don’t know if they could see my hand clutching my heart, my chest heaving for a breath. I tried to squeak something out, but a Boa constrictor had wrapped itself around my throat. I had to find some kind of answer to such cruelty, some memorable response to wash this away.

“There is a lesson here,” I began as I forced my tiny voice forward fearing the movie sound track would suddenly drown me out. “A lesson that is so much more important than anything you will learn from this movie.”

I turned back toward the exit, my arms and legs stiff like metal rods. But just as we were about to walk out, the voice from the back of the room struck again.
“Merry Christmas!” he called to us sarcastically. It was a kick in the back on our way out the door, a final deathblow meant for purely perverse entertainment."

I personally had to read this section more than once to get my mind around how Ms. Colson and her son were treated by grown adults and in front of their children, no less!  In an age where schools have hard core anti-bullying policies in place we have parents/guardians who behave like bullies in a movie theater over a young man with autism.  UNREAL.  School administrators: Are you aware that the bullies within the walls of your schools are bullies most likely because the adults in their lives are actual bullies?  To the "adults" who were in the theater and felt that it was your right to belittle an individual with autism so publicly:  Do you feel better about yourselves?  Would you want your children or grandchildren to behave as you did (maybe you do given your behavior)?  Did you hear yourselves speak?  I am almost embarrassed for those of you who behaved so poorly.

It is beyond sickening that we live in an age where "free speech" has been taken to such extremes.  What happened to treating fellow humans, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender with respect?  Goodness, with special needs such as autism on the rise how can people be so ignorant?  Do we live in an Eastern European country where individual with special needs should be shut away never to be seen?  I have seen first hand some similar behavior towards my son with Down Syndrome- in Ukraine.  They spit upon him, pushed him while we were merely walking down the street, and refused him the right to use a bathroom.  He was sent out to a dirty ally with chickens to go number two.  "He is a filthy animal!" I was told by a Ukrainian man.

Thankfully my family lives in a community where individuals with special needs are embraced, accepted, and supported.  It is not uncommon to walk into Wal-Mart and see several individuals with Down Syndrome or a bus load of students from our county's special needs school learning how to shop with a list.  My favorite bagger at Publix is my friend, Jon, who has Down Syndrome.  He lives in his own apartment, on his own, but has a life coach who checks in on him.  Jon's co-workers love him as do the customers.  We have three huge thrift stores affiliated with the Key Training Center and most people who shop there support the Key and the clients that the Key serves each and every day.  I have only run into poor attitudes towards Dima a few times here in our small town mostly from older folks who are from a different era when people like Dima were indeed "put away".

Further, I have three sons who will tell you that their favorite brother is Dima and that he has Down Syndrome.  I have three sons who voluntarily give up their personal time to volunteer in our church's special needs ministry.  They can walk up to any adult or child with any special need and treat them with the love, respect, and dignity that all humans deserve.  My husband's best friend is a Key client and some of my very dearest of friends are also Key clients.  They are invited into our home for meals, we hang out with them for fun, and our boys consider these friends part of our family.  My boys behave in such a manner because Eric and I modeled that for them.  It now comes very naturally to them and their affections for their friends with special needs are sincere.

How are you teaching your children to treat others?  Because little ears hear everything you say and they are learning by watching your every move.  We who call ourselves Christians also need to model such behavior for society at large.  I challenge you, fellow Christians, to make a concerted effort to treat others who are different from you with love and respect- publicly.  Go out of your way to smile or say, "Hello" to someone in a wheelchair.  If you see a child having a major tantrum in the middle of a store don't be so quick to judge.  The child may be totally overwhelmed by the noise, the number of people in his/her sight, or the child may truly not be able to help it.  People with special needs are not meant to be hidden away.  They are not to be forced to live in isolation.  We who call ourselves "normal" have so much to learn from those who society deems "abnormal".  It is just a matter of swallowing our pride and allowing ourselves to be taught.

Finally, to those of us who call ourselves Christians we must not forget the greatest commandment set before us by our Lord and Savior:

“Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.”
Matthew 23:36-40

1 comment:

Connie Renee said...

I'm so stinking proud of you once again, my friend!