Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

A friend of mine had a really horrible incident this week with her kids in a restaurant. She ventured out on her own, hugely pregnant and with three kids under six, hoping for a break from cooking and a fun time at a family-oriented place.

She recounted the story of how her kids (all boys) were behaving very well. Being a bit silly and wiggly, as all kids do when they are confined to a chair for the duration of a meal, but nevertheless getting along and enjoying themselves. Then a manager approached her table and said there had been a customer complaint, and proceeded to condescendingly (and loudly) lecture my friend and discipline her children.

After hearing her story, I got to thinking about all the times we have had comments and reprimands and nasty looks from strangers. It is not uncommon for a mom who is trying to soothe or discipline her child to have the people around her glare, tsk, and comment. Even the best behaved kid throws an occasional tantrum in the grocery store or refuses to walk and collapses to the ground and my own kids are certainly not exempt.

Having a special needs child like Jacob increases the likelihood that these situations will become regular occurrences. There have been more than a few incidents of unfriendliness and misunderstanding and each one has left me hurt and questioning the decency of people.

A mom like me (or any mom for that matter) has enough reasons to be stressed to the max or feel inadequate to parent this child she has been given. The disapproval of strangers does nothing to control the situation, comments said under breath but meant to be heard are extremely insulting and just make it harder for me to take my child in to the community (the cummunity that he has a smuch right as any other person to be a part of) and keep up confidence.

I was lying in bed last night remembering the times I have been offended and criticized but unless you have a hankering for bad dreams, that is no way to fall asleep. So I made a decision to focus instead on the time when strangers have been gentle, positive, and helpful. To my pleasant surprise there was no shortage of simple kindnesses I could recall.

A little patience and a sympathetic smile means so much. Interested, wondering looks are great. I want people to understand Jacob and questions do not offend. A helpful hand and gentle voice can make my day.

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless." -Mother Teresa

1 comment:

TC said...

I hope you are planning on writing a book some day. You write so well and keep my attention (which is hard to do). I can only imagine what you go through out in public with Jacob some times. And if I were your friend, I would have lost it and started yelling at that restraunt manager. I don't know where she was or even what state, but I hate the guy. ;)