While running errands, my daughter Meg asked if we could go to Target. On another recent trip there she had seen some pink plastic flamingos in the dollar aisle and wanted to buy one.
“They are perfect for the backyard,” she said, rather liking the tackiness of them. “Besides,” she added, “they represent what mankind so often does… wipe out a species then make their likeness out of plastic.”
She’s 17 going on 37.
So, off to Target and straight to the dollar aisle we went. She found them immediately and her face, fresh and enthusiastic, lit up.
She picked out one of the flamingos, wrapped, appropriately, in plastic, looked it over and put it back.
“That one only has one eye,” she said.
Then she paused. After a moment, she bent back down and picked up the very same plastic flamingo she had just returned to the shelf.
“No. I want this one. I’m not going to discriminate against him because he has one eye. That’s just how he is and I like him. He is just as good as the others and I want to give him a home. That’s ableism.” She proclaimed.
Then she asked, “Can we get two so he’ll have a friend?”
And I looked at my child, my sensitive, thoughtful, sweet child and said,
“Absolutely my dear.”
It was a “just imagine” moment as I stood there looking at Meg and her pink plastic flamingos in the dollar aisle at Target. She has lived her entire life with a brother with Aspergers… she turned five months old on the day he was diagnosed. I would be lying if I didn’t say she has suffered on occasion. She has. She has been on the receiving end of his rages. She’s has had to compromise. She has had to bend. She has had to leap ahead four years and be the older, wiser sibling. She has gone to counseling to help her deal with the complex emotions and stresses such a position creates. Yet she has empathy. She has compassion towards him and others with special needs.
Just imagine a world were people had a similar understanding of the differences amongst us and this knowledge spread a Meg-style love and tolerance. A world were we naturally, instinctively include and provide support for those with differences, rather than avoiding them and putting them back on the shelf.