Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reactions to the goober hat

I just had a great conversation with a friend of mine, Faith. Her son has been looking for a job because he just graduated from college. An acquaintance, Cindy, more or less hooked him up with a great job. She was very tenacious in helping him throughout the process. Last night, Brad went to thank her and he said something about wanting to pay her back for her kindness. She said, "You already have." You see, Brad was always kind to her son with Down's Syndrome. Brad treated him like he treated every other kid - with kindness and respect. That left a huge impression on Cindy and because of that, she helped Brad land a job.

So this conversation reminded me of people's reactions to Ryan's goober hat that he wears. I have seen 3 distinct reactions:
1. People stare and wonder what is wrong.
2. People make jokes about it the hat. Things like calling him "Crash" or asking if he is ready for football.
3. Ignore the hat and treat Ryan like any other kid.

I understand all three reactions. I understand the desire to want to stare at something - and I understand wanting to see if Ryan has a skull or some weird malformation (does a huge knot on the forehead count as a malformation? I think it's his horns trying to come out, but that's just me...)

I understand wanting to make jokes. I usually do that as my defense mechanism or when I'm uncomfortable. I also want people to laugh with me - so I get the jokes. Jeez, I even call his protective head gear the "goober hat."

But as a mom, I've come to be really thankful for the people who treat Ryan like anyone else. If they usually ignore kids - ignore Ryan. If they usually give stickers to kids - give a sticker to Ryan. But please, see my son's heart, not his hat.

So here's the life lesson that I want to live by... treat others the same -with kindness and respect - not because they are "different" or because they are "normal" - but because we all crave acceptance and love. Besides, you never know when those kind deeds, words, or equal treatment will get you a good job in a recession!!

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