This morning a discussion on Facebook reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of writing. A friend of mine was talking about her 13-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy, and the wearable walkaide that he uses. She was talking about the stares and comments he got on a recent outing and the discussion she had with him around his options for handling that.
Specifically, she told him (shared with permission) "You don't owe anyone an explanation about anything. Your body is yours so you can choose to ignore them. BUT, here's the thing- people are naturally curious about things that are different. So you have an opportunity to help change the way people interact with other people who have walkaides or have CP. You can choose to be an ambassador. Usually that's the person from one country who works to share customs and whatnot with other countries so that way they get along better with eachother, and maybe understand and accept eachother more. So the next time someone asks, or looks a little too long- you can politely explain whatever you would like to- and maybe that person won't do that anymore."
Wise and generous, right?
It reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of writing. From the lovely Courtney Westlake, mother of a child who is visibly different, "Parents: What I Wish You Would Do" is (obviously) directed at parents, but there are lessons in it for all of us. It's a piece I come back to often. It's made me think about my own reactions, and how our instincts to avoid rudeness can sometimes be unintentionally isolating and rude in less obvious ways. But when we stop to think it through with empathy, it makes perfect sense.
In short: be kind, be inclusive, break through your discomfort—breaking down barriers might be easier than we think, and it starts with a simple "hello".