a heartbreaking true story of ignorance
So we're walking through target..
We were on a mission to grab the last few items for her special birthday party the very next day.
Ab is beaming walking passed the aisles looking for the party decorations *crutch*, *step*, *crutch*, *step*
Then a women and a child are approaching us. The child is visibly and verbally upset that she could not buy a toy from the aisle they were exiting. The woman was visibly frustrated at the small scene the child was causing. Abby noticed and kindly looked away and up at me. I reassured her that she was okay to keep walking forward.
All of a sudden the woman noticed us. She noticed the crutches. She watched abby take a step. She began tugging at the child's arm and demanding that she look at Abby. As we pass, she physically turns the crying child towards Abby and yells at her:
"DO YOU SEE THAT? YOU COULD BE LIKE THAT SO YOU HAVE NOTHING TO CRY ABOUT!"
Abby paused mid-step and froze. I watched her friendly smile fade and her sweet face drop down to her crutches. The same pastel pink crutches that she had been happily walking with through the store with just minutes before. The woman continued as we slowly passed. By the time we got to the party decorations just a few steps later, Abby was ready to leave. We grabbed our table cloth and candles that we had came for and headed to the register.
On the way home, I just watched Ab stare out the window. My sweet girl who's never found without a smile on her face was now so quiet. It feels wrong to even describe how I was feeling in those moments when I know it must hurt the most kind, innocent soul I know so much more.
Destroyed. shattered. scared. furious. shocked. so sad.
In that store all i wanted to do was SCREAM at that ignorant woman. I wanted to tell her that her problem was not the misunderstood child next to her, it was her. I wanted to grab her arm like she did the child's and drag her over to Abby's ad hanging up in the store just steps away and let her soak up the fact that she is just some miserable human being in this world while Abby is a role model and inspiration to so many all around the world. I wanted to remind her that "that" is a human being with feelings who can completely comprehend what she is saying and may never forget her horrible words for her entire life. I wanted her to know what a piece of crap she was for what she had just done.
But I didn't say a word.
I didn't even look at her.
I kept walking, seeming un-phased.
I could have so easily made a scene. And sometimes when I think back, I wish that I did, but I am proud of myself that I didn't.
I want Abby to understand thoroughly what it means to be kind. I want her to know that not every action needs a reaction. I want her to know that putting someone else down for putting you down is never going to make you feel better. I want her to know that she can be the bigger person, even when it feels hard to do or not worth it at all. Rather than just telling her, I want to set an example and show her. I want her to know that kindness isn't always given in an exchange, sometimes it's giving by one party to a very underserving other. So I stayed calm. I let the woman go about her miserable day without adding to her toxic, arrogant demeanor. I hugged my sweet girl and let her pick the most sparkly table cloth she could find.
Abby is 8 years old. She was just out shopping for her birthday party to celebrate with her friends that she has been looking forward to for months. She does not deserve to be made feel this way. By anyone. Ever.
While this encounter felt extreme, moments like this are not rare enough. From stares, to pointing, to uneducated comments; it all hurts. Time helps. The more comfortable I became with Abby's diagnosis and the unfortunate reality of the people she would encounter, the easier it was for me to understand, to educate Abby, to help build her self confidence, to help her love herself exactly the way she is, and to grow thicker skin.
I've spent years reminding her that what others say has a lot more to do about them that it ever will about her. I've taught her that a lot of times it is unintentional misunderstanding and not people trying to put her down.
The moral of this story is not to receive pity. It's more of the opposite. Maybe it is as simple as "don't judge a book by the cover" or "you never really know what someone else is going through".
But more importantly, it is to just be kind.