be_honest

 

Image Description: Large blue type reading: Be honest with yourself first.

I received some really nice feedback, both in the comments and from several emails, about my post yesterday about New Year’s resolutions. As a result of one email, when someone mentioned something I’d not realized I’d written, I went back to read the post again. This isn’t uncommon, I expect, for writers – readers sometimes see something we’ve written in a very different way, which is both cool and a bit frightening.

As I read what I’d written I began to feel uncomfortable with the story about the young boy, his care provider, and the astronaut. Everything that’s there is true, it’s what isn’t there that pricked at my conscience. I don’t think that, when I wrote it, I was doing anything other than trying to convey my heartfelt feelings about what I saw. In fact, I was so concentrated on trying to capture the scene, I neglected to really look at myself as viewer. And if I had, I’d have made a different, or perhaps an extra, resolution.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with going public with the next bit.

But there is a liberation in honesty I believe.

When the young boy came in with his care provider. I did what people do, I saw him, I saw his disabilities, and then I saw him again – this time differently. I try not to do that. I hate doing it. But sometimes I do it without knowing I’m doing it, even though it bothers me when others constantly do it to me. If I had not re-read the blog I wouldn’t have had cause to really think about what actually happened inside my head when he came in.

As I said, I saw him and then saw him again after my assumption, prejudices and preconceptions snapped into place. His physical disabilities were extensive. He was laying passively being pushed in his wheelchair. My assessment, which was, again I hate to admit instantaneous, was that he had a significant physical disability and an even more significant intellectual disability.

When his face lit up for the astronaut, when he managed, through a significant physical disability to communicate with his care provider and a stranger in a costume, I understood that my assessment had been completely incorrect. I had seen something that wasn’t there so I saw someone who wasn’t there.

I need to, and this is a promise to myself, made publicly, stop, or moderate, my instant assessments about people in general and people with disabilities specifically. This kid, because of people like me, is going to have to fight constantly, for his whole life, to be seen past multiple prejudices. Because of people like me, his choices may be limited, his options curtailed, his opportunities dimmed. Because of his disabilities he will be fighting physical barriers all of his life but because of people like me he’s going to be fighting phantom barriers that needn’t exist.

Perhaps trying to live a life with fewer assumptions and prejudices might also make a better life and a pretty good 4th resolution.