Be The Change in the Ripples of the Special Needs Community

I stand in line… by line I mean I was 2nd with no one behind me.  Nothing seems unusual.  A woman rushes away from the customer service cashier.  The next woman steps up.  I hear mumblings of “it’s one of those kind of days” coming from the next customer towards the customer service cashier.

I look up and notice, this cashier is in near tears.  She’s digging down deep to find any ounce of strength to keep her face from the contortions it now takes… every ounce of strength and professionalism to keep from sobbing.  I realize the person who just rushed away was not an easy customer to work with.  This new customer (#1 in line) had witnessed it all.  The previous customer rushing away from anger rather than hurry.

She manages a minuscule smile of polite acknowledgement rather than feeling.  The customer service cashier may break down at any moment.  This new customer stops, completes her business and it’s my turn.  I can only offer her a smile and a moment to catch a breath… I offer her the time she may need.  She declines.  We finish our business.  There’s no one behind me in line and I’m happy for her to be free from another customer… if only for a moment.

It was a few weeks before Christmas.

Christmas_Decor 123rf

Gift giving is done.  New Years is hardly behind us, it’s time to look forward.  And I wonder about that looking forward.  Will that woman who left this young 20-something customer service cashier from the neighborhood “red” store look forward?  Will she look back?  Will she reflect on her own actions and find any amount of remorse or even embarrassment for carrying out her feeling of stress(?) ‘from the holidays’ on a young woman who is making her own way through life?

Will this woman consider for even a moment that what she visited upon this young girl was not in the spirit of the holidays?  Would she carry herself into the next year with a determination to make a change, in recognition of at least one time when she felt the need to make herself feel better by making another feel bad?  Or will she continue as is, with no reflection, no inner turmoil nor desire to see the ways in which she could change her ripples upon the world.  The ripples that continue as a pebble in the water, each movement affecting the next.

This woman who so haphazardly affected this young woman.  This woman who unwittingly affected me.  This woman who now makes an impression on you through me.  Her ripples have run wide…

In my (almost) 11 years of being a part of the special needs community, there are a few things I can say with absolute certainty about those of us who have been here for some time:

Special Needs Parents are the strongest people I know.

We can walk forward with a smile, with most others never understanding the turmoil we experience on a daily or hourly basis.

We have gained perspective on what’s truly important and what’s not worth fighting about.

We have learned not to treat others with complete disregard for what they may be experiencing themselves in their own lives (some of us still need to work on this).

We are less likely to place judgement, just as we dislike judgement placed upon us for our (perceived) lack of parenting or lifestyle choices.

With all this said, I admit, I have no idea what that customer was going through in her day.  What I do know is that she unleashed upon a young girl who was not deserving, causing ripples of despair, maybe anger.

As we go forward into a New Year, I question whether resolutions is the way to go.  Should we “resolve” to make surface changes in ourselves, or should we make actual unmeasurable, conscientious decisions in our every day life to take an extra few moments to remind ourselves of what’s important…of what ripple effects our actions cause?

Reminding myself of the sadness I witnessed before Christmas… of the tears that swelled in another woman’s eyes – someone else’s daughter – I ask each of you to remember what I witnessed, and what I say to you now.

Remember that we are strong; we are part of a very special community.  What we experience as parents of children with special needs is very different from what another experiences.  That is what bonds us.

And that’s it… It bonds us.  We speak that which can not be said within a look.  We say what we dare not to another, to each other, knowing that understanding – not judgment – follows.

Regardless of why our children have been tasked in the ways which they are, regardless of the differences in diagnosis, the etiology of disorders, I ask that each of us walk into this new year remembering to respect each other, to recall that even within our differences, we are in this together.  We all want only what’s best for our children and our families.

There is no other that will walk in the shoes which adorn our feet…
 no… many would refuse.  But we choose to walk.  Beside our children.


Walking Over Bridge_MTSOfan Flickr…And should we take a moment to peer over our shoulders, we will see another, just like us, walking the same walk, in different shoes but with the same love.  Like it or not, we also walk beside each other.  It was made to be that way.  This is how our Special has Happened.

So this year, please… be kind.  Be thoughtful in your words.  Breathe before you speak, before you act.  Allow your thoughts, your pains and worries, joys and triumphs to go beyond your own focused world and recognize that they too can be in another’s world.  A world much like your own.  A very special one.

Happy New Year.

(Bridge Photo By: MTSOfan via Flickr)

(Christmas Decor Photo By: yuriisokolov / 123RF Stock Photo)

Gina St. Aubin
Gina St. Aubin is a former Victim’s Advocate who now advocates for those with intellectual and physical challenges. Her eldest son is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Electrical Status Epilepticus during Sleep / Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (a rare epileptic disorder causing verbal aphasia) and Developmental Delays. In June, 2012, her son also underwent a successful hemispherectomy. Gina is the editor, author and owner of Special Happens, serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the SPD Foundation, and resides in Colorado where she is a mother of 3, wife, blogger, writer and special needs advocate. You can reach Gina through various Special Happens connections on Facebook and Twitter, or email her directly.
Gina St. Aubin
Gina St. Aubin

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