I have been participating in a writer’s workshop for that last month that has ignited my craft. Seriously, my brain is flooded with new material screaming to get out and on paper. Now, you understand the insanity that resides in my head. This week’s writing assignment has caused me some fear and hesitation. I am asked to reveal an experience with a childhood friend. Now, you might say, “wow, that sounds like fun”, but the only experience that stands out brings up some residual feelings that continue to haunt me.
Her name was Anne and she lived diagonal from my house. I don’t remember how old she was, but I think she was probably a few years older than me. We spent our days jumping on her trampoline or simply picking dandelions and creating beautiful bouquets. I don’t recall her every coming to my house. I do remember thinking that she was nice and easy to get along with, but I do remember the day when our relationship changed.
One of my friends from the neighborhood inquired about my relationship with Anne. “You know she is retarded, right?” she flatly asked. At the age of ten, I had heard the word, but had never really experienced anyone with an intellectual disability. The word “retarded” cut me deep. In an effort to fit in, I told her that, of course, I knew, but felt sorry for her. After that interaction, I never played with Anne again.
I recently saw Anne. She lives at a group home where I helped facilitate a makeover which gave their house a whole new look. When I saw her, I thought I saw of glimmer of recollection in her eyes. I introduced myself to her and recounted our adventures. She smiled, but the glimmer faded and I realize that she didn’t remember me.
I am telling you this because I failed to stand up and tell my friend that there is nothing wrong with playing with someone who happens to have a disability. I failed Anne. In a twisted life moment, I now have an Anne. Although Bailey navigates life easier than my childhood friend, the sentiment is the same.
My reality is circular. These moments where I act cruel, hurtful, or maybe, I just don’t have enough information to do it any different, come back to me so that I can try again. Bailey is my do over. He is my living amends to the heartless act of turning my back on a friend who simply needed someone….who needed to feel like she belonged. Yes, I realize I seem intolerant of my action. Yes, I understand that I was just a child, but now I am the mother of that child. Seeing it from a different perspective allows me to not only forgive myself, but to be able to educate those who dismiss Bailey because he is different. While humbling to acknowledge a hurtful act, it is also gratifying to realize that I can now help change society’s outlook on those with special needs. That moment of hurt has blossomed into a lifetime of blessings.