Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My thoughts

Have you seen this: http://www.stservicemovie.com/ ? It's a video clip about "Johnny the Bagger." It's been sent to me a number of times.

Let me start out by saying that I don't want to offend anyone. I understand the sentiment with which this clip is sent to me. I know it is meant to offer inspiration, and possibly even comfort, by providing a glimpse into the future and what Finn might be capable of some day. And I really and truly appreciate the motives behind sending this to me.

The truth, though? I hate it. Hate it, hate it. My first thought the first time it was sent to me was (and, granted, I am a cynical skeptic by nature), this is bullshit. This is all made up. It's not even about a real, actual person. It's propaganda of some sort. No actual name of the grocery store in question is mentioned, and no actual images of "Johnny" are shown. And even the name "Johnny" seems contrived to me.

(These are the thoughts that have gone through my head watching the clip.)

But okay. Let's assume it is genuine, that it is about a real, actual person.

I still hate it.

You know why? Because I find it depressing. Here we go again, another person with Down syndrome working as a bagger at a grocery store. Yay. Really, there must be other, meaningful jobs out there that people with Ds are capable of holding. Aren't there? I don't like the limits this little piece of inspiration engenders. It promotes the stereotype that people with Down syndrome are eternally friendly, happy souls. That's limiting too. It's almost as if I am supposed to believe - and feel good about! - the fact that my son will be too retarded to be anything but happy and cheerful all the time. I despise this one-dimentional image of Ds that so many people have. And you know what? Maybe it's accurate. I don't know. I don't have an adult child with Ds. All I have right now is a baby with Ds who is pretty darn crabby a lot of the time. And I almost take satisfaction in that, because it breaks the stereotype and proves that he's his own unique person with his own opinions (however primitive), and he's not always happy about what's going on.

You know what I'd like to see? A video clip that makes its way around the internet that features a person with Ds having a bad day. Maybe yelling at someone. Maybe a good cuss word thrown in for good measure. Maybe a person with Ds working the front desk of a brothel and flipping someone off. I don't know.

Maybe I'm in denial still.


My name is Sarah said...

OMG Lisa, I love you. I truly do. This is Joyce by the way. I do have some video footage that will make you smile. I just have to find it. I only wish I could write my true thoughts as well as you do. You will never know how much I get out of reading your material.

The Sanchez Family said...

Ooooh! I wish I remembered the name of a blog I read recently wear an adult with DS was at a pub in the UK somewhere and was telling a dirty joke! It was great, real, true, honest and hilarious! I'll see if I can find it again.

The Sanchez Family said...

BTW, I just watched the video for the first time (I've never heard of it before) and I'm totally crying sitting here...but I'm a "sap" at heart :)

Crittle said...

Thank you!

I feel very similar to you in that regard.

There's a blog SOMEWHERE that I've seen that has a young man doing all kinds of great stuff. And he has Ds. Lemme see if I can track it down for you. That's the stuff we need to share with one another.

Karly said...

The one thing I like about that video is that (if it's real), it's a nice story about how a person with Ds still has a life with meaning and one that can touch the lives of others. But the Dan Drinker blog is a more worthwhile viewing, in my opinion.

Laurie said...

ditto karly!

JaybirdNWA said...

That last paragraph is too funny. I loved it. I must say that I agree with you. I have gotten this email before and deleted it upon receiving it without giving it much thought but you are exactly right. To me, this just shows that the majority of people just don't get it when it comes to people that are different, let alone people with Ds. My sentiments are that it is their loss and shows much stupidity and and arrogance that we are somehow better than they. I agree with your cynic side that I have my doubts whether this is real or not.

Brandie said...

Oh Lisa, I needed a good laugh. My thinking about these things is always changing. Bottom line though, I just want Goldie to grow up an do what she loves. The same think I'd like to see for her sisters.

Jen said...

Ugh, the grocery bagger phenomenon. I can't understand why people think we should be happy about our child with DS doing some kind of job we wouldn't be happy about ANY of our kids having. I won't be happy about any of my boys doing soul-sucking work, and that goes for my kid with the extra chromosome too. Bagging groceries is fine for high-school students to earn gas money or whatever, but as a lifelong career? There just has to be something more.

My husband and I always talk about starting some sort of family business, just so Evan won't end up washing windshields or wiping tables.

Emily said...

I totally get where you are coming from. (My daughter has DS) and a lot of time the "inspirational" pieces about DS drive me insane. Especially the ones that show a one dimensional view. Or the ones that show how nice everyone was to the poor kid with DS (charity case), yuck. I love seeing people with DS doing things outside their stereo-typical box. I actually enjoyed the retarded policeman clips on youtube because it made me smile to see Ponce doing his thing (even though it's a bit over the top at times and a lot of other parents disapprove).

So ya, even though I am glad that happiness, etc is commonly a DS trait (better than being a jerk IMO). I dis-like the grouping of all people with DS are this way mentality. Or that they are destined to bag groceries, work at MD or clean up after people (not to say those jobs don't deserve respect because they do).

Anyway, I really love your blog and your openness and honestly (and can totally relate to much of it)!

Jeanette said...

Lisa, I too have an aversion to this kind of stuff. I want more than bagging groceries for Sydney. I want her to do something that makes her happy. I don't know what that is, but I will do my best to open doors for her. No, she is not always happy, but that is the most common comment people say. "She is ALWAYS so happy"... my answer is "No, not really", she is just like any other baby. Ugh. Thanks for the post! It needs to be said. People have great intentions of things like this, but to some of us parents, they are limitations wrapped up with a big red sappy bow.

Lisa said...

I don't know if the Johnny the Bagger story is made up or not. I think I've been sent every chain email that exists about a person with special needs...and I've received this one several times as well. Truth be told, most of them are difficult to swallow because they don't seem plausible, or accurate...or because the person who forwarded the email does not have a family member with "special needs". I used to feel like I had to read the messages. I can now delete them without a second thought, if that's what I'm inclined to do.

I actually like the "Johnny" story, and have never focused on the stereotype of a person with Ds working as a bagger in a grocery store. I think it is more of a testament to the fact that people with Ds possess the same ability as the rest of us to inspire and to make a difference in the lives of others. It also shows how much people today NEED inspiration--whatever the source (people waited in long lines just to get the quote of the day).

I do love Dan Drinker's website, which shows Dan's many layers, emotions, talents, etc.

Keep looking...I'm sure you'll find evidence of people with Ds having a bad day, cussing, telling off-color jokes, and flipping people off. Working in a brothel...I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how we'll figure that one out :). Please do post/let us all know what you uncover!

Anonymous said...


I understand everything you feel and say about Johnny the bagger.