We went to the movies the other day, to see Bohemian Rhapsody, and when I got to the door of the theatre it was being held open by an employee there with Down Syndrome. I’ve seen him before and greeted him with a quick hello and a thanks for holding the door. I entered. At the bottom of the carpeted ramp up into the theatre I stopped to brace myself for the climb. Several people coming by asked if they could help, I said ‘no,’ and all respected my desire to climb unassisted.

It took a while to get to the top so I heard how the man with Down Syndrome was spoken to. He was essentially bullied with kindness. Soft tones asked him how he was doing, patronizing tones thanked him for doing such a good job with door holding open behaviour,  sad tones – communicating that his life is a tragedy – asked him how he was doing. He was stoic in his silent response.

Finally the last person that was coming in that stream was in and I was nearly at the top of the ramp, he caught up to me just as I crested the hill. He walked by with a dignity that others simply couldn’t see. He was a man at work, doing a real job, with a real purpose. He wasn’t the child/man, the infant mind/adult body, that he’d been treated as. No. He was an adult at work.

What he must bear.

What control does it take to make it through a shift?

We talk about bullying and name calling. But there is another kind of bullying isn’t there? The kind where kind words cut down, where soft tones hit hard, were perceptions of ‘less than’ have motivated a sympathy not needed at all.

Bullied by kindness.

Or what they call kindness.

It’s just a matter of perception, I’m guessing he’d call it cruelty.

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