Teach, not Temper
I knew it would come one day... the pointing of fingers in malicious intent.
That does mean that I was prepared for it.
Not even a small piece of me was prepared.
I'm grateful it took 4 years to happen but still, Hank was made fun of.
At an event in Ocala over the summer, in a building full of 4-H kids- kids who recite a motto "To Make The Best Better" and who are generally considered children/youth of great character- Hank was enjoying the people and activity.
He was smiling the giant smile we all love. He would straighten his legs and put his arms out. Sometimes a squeal and a giggle. He was in his element watching his sisters compete.
2 young boys were sitting near enough to him that they could see him and I caught it. Luckily, Hank is none the wiser.
He'd get excited and they'd point and laugh.
I let it go a minute, hoping that what I was seeing was boys sharing a joke. Not one part of me wanted to believe that I was witnessing the poking fun at a disabled child... I was wrong though as it became more obvious the subject of the laughter was Hank. Each club wears identifiable shirts and I knew what I needed to do.
I found the adults in charge of that particular club and held my breathe as I approached. Calming my heart and mind. I explained that I needed to speak to two of their boys when the event was over. I had Hank with me and let them know they had been making fun of him. They looked stunned. They apologized. They said absolutely, we could talk, to find them after.
I began to silently pray over what I would say. Yelling isn't the way. Embarrassment and admonishment is not how to teach this lesson. Compassion and humanity was the path I would need to take.
When the event ended, I followed them out to meet with their parents and club leader.
As I walked up with Hank, I saw it on their face: they knew why I was there.
I introduced myself and I said this is Hank. And Hank does life a little different than you all.
Different isn't bad though, it's what makes the world special. It's what brings it color and joy.
I said Hank doesn't know, but I do, that you were laughing at him and not with him. And I want you to know that sometimes the way you respond to 1 person can hurt another. Today, I was the one hurt by those action.
Hank loves to watch people, and he was having a lot of fun in there. Which makes me happy. I realize his joy looks different because of the way his body moves but we should never laugh at the way someone has fun in life.
Hank is 4. He cannot walk or talk and he has a very hard time controlling his muscles.
But he probably has a lot in common with you. He likes ice cream, fire trucks, cartoons, and playing at the beach.
If we look past the way someone looks, we might make a new friend.
I want that to be your take away here, boy. I want you to see the person that Hank is, and not what his body looks like or does. Be careful with your words and actions, and always give someone the chance to be your friend.
When I finished, their mothers had them introduce themselves to me and Hank. I gave them a chance to ask questions. And they apologized for hurting me. The shook my hand and Hank's.
1 of the moms was crying and she hugged me. She thanked me for talking to them. The club leader shook my hand and thanked me for maybe changing their futures.
I left there different inside, somewhere. A small piece of my heart broken. But a small piece of me also hopeful that 2 more people on this planet could be a little better.
Nevertheless, we will march on, changing the world where we can. Because that was God's gift to me.