This was written upon request, and I feel compelled to make that comment only because I do not consider myself to be an "authority" on much of anything beyond the art of Kraft Dinner preparation. My opinion on this was ever-so politely asked for (and I'm sure will be grammatically corrected by Happy Cow's good buddy Pete the Spelling and Punctuation Constable!! Just jokin' Pete!) and I don't want anyone to presume that I think people are wanting to hear what I have to say, like I just have it all together. I don't.
It's probably because I don't that this topic stands out in my home. If my family and I were just the "picture perfect, happy, well adjusted" group that most think it should be like, then a lot of this wouldn't be an issue. The fact is that we are different. Not so different from some, but VERY different from many. Different enough that we had a sign at one point on our front window that read "Welcome to Dysfunction Junction" and I answer the phone with "Looney bin" on good days!! It is our eclectic individualism that makes us so fan-fabulous in my opinion! However, this is sort of about someone specific as opposed to a family unit.
My middle son, Thomas, is autistic. He is 11 years old. Thomas is one of those kids that you can just watch for a moment and know is special needs, however it wasn't always like that. When he was little (2,3 and 4), many of his symptoms came across as similar to those of a neglected child. One that hadn't been given direction and left, ignored as long as they were quiet. He wouldn't make eye contact, hardly spoke, had emotional outbursts/temper tantrums (what we call "melt downs" around our house), wouldn't respond when you talked to him, which could look like he was ignoring you, etc. He would do things like throw a fit at a store when the cashier took whatever it was from him to ring it through. With his limited comprehension he didn't put together that she was taking it away but that he was going to get it right back. All he saw was it being taken away.
At 2, not so unusual a sight, but at 4 it brought on looks from others. It gave the appearance of him being a "spoiled brat" and me being a poor parent not having taught him even that much by his age. Many, many times I had people walk by and make snide remarks and put their noses up at us blatantly so I would notice. Once, at a local grocery store I was a regular at, the cashier told me that I "needed a parenting course" and once a woman in Zellers walked by with her own children and told me that I should "learn how to control my child". Those are just two examples and unfortunately those ones are much more frequent and easily brought to memory than anything positive that has been said or done.
Most make a wide berth even with all the "awareness" that is going on in the world right now. When I drop him off in the mornings at school or pick him up, he's standing alone at the fence. At his age, he's only ever been invited to one birthday party from school and at that party he played by himself. A couple (literally) of the kids say good morning to him and there are the occasional children who will let him play at lunch with them, to whom I am ever so thankful and appreciative. They give him a taste of life which is of a quality that most take for granted with their children - having friends, at all. Maybe not being understood but being accepted. Which is sort of what brings us to the point of this in a roundabout way. I just wanted to give some background.
Some friends and I have a group email going where we discuss social and personal issues, have a laugh and sometimes even vent to. In this email, I posted this YouTube link which features a woman named Susan Boyle, who appeared on the TV show Britain's Got Talent recently. Susan gives what I considered to be an absolutely inspirational performance. If you haven't watched it, I suggest you do, but please fully understand exactly what you are seeing. This isn't a woman that society in any way would look at and think she'd had the advantages of "good looks" and the opportunities that it brings, whether the good looking people want to admit that it really does happen or not. She's a housekeeper, I do believe, but could be wrong on that. I don't believe she's ever been married and has made the statement that she's never been kissed at one point, whether she was joking or not I don't know. It does lead one to believe, however that she's had a life of intimate solitude and hasn't experienced even the wonder of love in the way many of us have had the privilege to.
When asked why, at 47, she's trying out, her response was that she's never been given the chance before, alhough she has sung since she was 12. This is a woman who walked out on that stage knowing people were going to laugh at her and she did it with such style, courage and a brilliant outlook which makes me assume that it obviously wasn't the first time she's been laughed at. And they did laugh at her. They sneered, rolled eyes and the judges visibly steeled themselves against what they automatically assumed was going to be a horrid performance from the second she walked out on that stage.
Miss Boyle showed a genuine kindness in character and didn't project back their negativity one bit. She stood strong and just wanted the opportunity to try. She was willing to put herself into the line of fire just for a chance. I have days where I won't take my kids out because I'm just not in the mental place to handle the ignorance and the meanness that is projected toward us quite often. Yet here was this woman, shining and unscathed by all the ugliness, brave, fearless and true. And what did she do? She opened her mouth to the music and taught everyone in that room something. One of the "everything you need to know you learned in Kindergarten" rules that we all know, profess to agree with but ignore every day. Her courage has brought a reminder to people which is why her story is becoming so well known. Don't judge a book by its cover. In a way, it sort of makes me sad because the greatness of her impact alone is a testament to how bad it is and how often people do what they did to her to others. But, better late than never.
So, the next time you start to form opinions about something you see, but all you've done is look, please remember this. It matters - and you could just help someone to have the courage to follow a dream by not being judgemental - or even just the courage to go shopping.
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