Saturday, October 17, 2009

One of those people

I went to the grocery store this morning to pick up a few things. There are often solicitors sitting outside of this particular grocery store - people either collecting signatures for the petition du jour, or collecting money for some charity. They always make me feel uncomfortable. I give to worthwhile charities, but I prefer to give directly to reputable organizations rather than to someone standing outside of a store who may not even be who they say they are. And besides, who can give to everyone who asks for money? I don't like to be hit up when I go to the store, and I always feel like I have to have some excuse ready.

The person standing outside the entrance to the grocery store this morning had a table set up with a big sign that read, "HELP MENTALLY DISABLED PEOPLE." I walked right past, my heart beating curiously fast, and I did my shopping, all the while thinking of what I would say on my way out of the store when the guy hit me up (they always seem to wait until you're leaving the store as opposed to entering the store). Would I say my usual, "Sorry, not today"? Or maybe I would say "I'm helping a mentally disabled person at home." Or maybe I would actually strike up a conversation with the guy and tell him about my son who has Down syndrome. Or maybe not. And I wondered how the girl who has Ds who works in that grocery store felt about that guy and his sign.

I walked out of the store, still not sure what I was going to say, but the guy never approached me, so I got in my truck and drove home.

But here's the thing: seeing that guy and his sign, "HELP MENTALLY DISABLED PEOPLE," just left me feeling sad and deflated. My son is one of those people, apparently. Sometimes it's still hard to wrap my head around that one. He's a member of a class of people of which I am not a member, and on some level it makes me fear some separation between me and Finn. I have an understanding of what it's like to be "typical" in this world. I have no idea what it's like to be disabled in this world. Sometimes I still feel completely unprepared and unqualified to raise a child who has special needs. How will I prepare him for life when I have no idea what it's like to be someone like him?

He's a member of a class of people for whom other people stand outside of grocery stores asking for money. He's one of the people on whose behalf ARC leaves those bags on our front door asking for donations of clothing. How can that be? It all leaves me feeling like for all the progress society has made, the world still sees Finn and people like Finn as charity cases, less-than human beings, people who are unfortunate and require the benevolence of strangers and organizations, because lord knows they can't make their own way through life. I know the needs are really there - I know the money goes to fund programs and such. And that's good!

But sometimes it still hits me in a tender spot.


Sasha said...

I haven't been in that situation yet where I have walked by a table like that. It would be interesting to see what the money would actually go for and do? What organization would it support. Everyone has a program. I used to work in non profit and even those that we would call typical need a program for things in their life (stress, drugs, illness, pregnancy, drinking ect). So in that respect I don't think you should feel bad or sad. You have a special little man and yes he may need help but so do a lot of other people to. That's just the way I see it.

Mel said...

Our boys have much more in common with us and our own families than they have with others with a disability and even others with DS. After all, poor old Luke has an extra copy of a gene from either me or Neil, so he's in trouble either way! Lol! They only have the number of genes in common, the rest is all us. Seeing into the future is something I find hard too, but I try not to think about it- I don't obsess about it with my other kids, so I figure I shouldn't do it with Luke either :)Just continue my denial ;) Just finished a book by a mum of 5 with the youngest with DS- says the older siblings were huge motivation for Kelly, and she lives independently, travels overseas, owns and drives a car, and is completely fabulous. Hopefully Luke will achieve something like that.

Lisa said...

Mel, what's this book of which you speak?? I'd be interested to read it . . .

Chrystal said...

That does sound like a great book!

So far, Lisa, I haven't come across situations like this, so thanks for helping me to think of how I'd best handle it in advance.