How many times have you stared at a person who looked different? The person could be largely overweight, have some sort of physical deformity or be too tall or too short….. but whatever it was about them, they were different from you.

I have to admit, I used to stare at people different from me. That was until I spent time with someone very close to me that got stares all day long. I realized that this person dealt with more uncomfortable situations in a day than most of us deal with in a lifetime!

In our house, the word “fat” is a naughty word. So is “big”. So is anything that could be potentially uncomfortable for anyone else. With a 5 year old however, there is always going to be a situation like what happened a few years ago when we were in line at the grocery store. The pimply young cashier intrigued my son and Jeremy yelled out, “he has OUCHIES on his face”. Well, what can you do?

Today was an opportunity for a good lesson regarding special needs children. I took my son to the Doctor for a physical and being flu season there were several children there with physical and mental disabilities that are considered “high risk”. Right across from us was a man with his son in a very elaborate wheel chair. The chair secured the boy who probably couldn’t sit up on his own. The boy spoke very slowly and was severely mentally and physically challenged.

But his eyes lit up when I asked the daddy if I could introduce my son to him. Jeremy had been staring at him and told me he couldn’t talk so I asked the dad if we could meet him. The dad seemed happy too so I crossed the room to sit down right by him and asked the boy his name. He said “Tim” . I said, “hi Tim, this is Jeremy” . Then I asked, “How old are you Tim?” He said, “Ten”. While I talked with him I rubbed his leg gently and I could see he was trying to put his hand out for me to grab it. I asked Jeremy to tell Tim how old he was.

The conversation was short but sweet. The nurse then called them in and the dad looked at me and thanked me and we said goodbye.

On the way home, I was able to explain to Jeremy that Tim has feelings just like any kid who wants to fit in. He wants to have friends and experience life and love his family. He doesn’t want to be laughed at or pointed at just because he is different. And he doesn’t want to be “special”. He just wants to be “normal”.

I felt good about having the opportunity to introduce Jeremy to Tim. I want him to feel as comfortable talking with someone in a wheel chair as he would anyone that was able bodied. I want him to know that everyone, no matter WHO they are or what their circumstances, wants to be acknowledged and not ignored, talked with and not stared at, and they want people just to be comfortable and not intimidated.

I don’t know if it made an impression on Jeremy today, but I feel that it did. We’ll continue to speak with whoever comes along our path no matter how different they are from us.

Teaching our children not to stare is probably impossible. But teaching them to share a conversation with people who are different is truly remarkable!