Several weeks ago, I took my boys to an evening event–a bonfire and hayride. See, I had been working most of the autumn season at a local apple orchard and it was an employee event as an end of season “Thank You” party. It was the Thursday evening before Election Day, and it was cool and brisk that evening.
My husband had to work so he couldn’t go. I often take both boys on outings by myself and yeah, I was a bit apprehensive, but felt up to the challenge. Brian after all is fairly independent at 7, plus one of my friends was going–and her sons and Brian are friends, so I knew he could “hang” with them while my attention was on Kevin. Kevin absolutely needs 1:1 all the time due to the frequent seizures.
So anyway, we go. Once we got there, the more nervous I became. First of all, I forgot about the steps to and from getting on the hayride. They were difficult for Kevin to manage. I forgot about what the seating is like on the hayrides and how it would affect him. Most importantly, since it was November, it was dark very early. Kevin is visually impaired, the seizure helmet doesn’t help….and now it was dark.
But we were managing. When we got to our bonfire place, I sat him on a log, away from the fire of course, so I could go grab some snacks. Of course, in that brief moment, he had a seizure and fell to the ground. Luckily the log he was sitting on wasn’t high up and he landed on soft ground. But, I needed some help in having folks watch him while I got us some food and helped Brian with his bonfire fork for hot dogs and marshmallows.
And then….the skies opened. It wasn’t just raining. It was absolutely pouring. We were getting soaked. Even in the few brief minutes that we decided what to do as a group (remember, we were out in the middle of an orchard, a hayride away from shelter) and pack up our things, I got soaked through to my underwear. Now things were slippery too, including those steps up to the hay wagon.
I needed another co-worker, a young guy named Bear, to lift Kevin up to and down from the wagon. Kevin was wet, cold and confused and no longer cooperating. Another co-worker helped me with him on the hayride. Whew! But finally we were in the mini van and headed home. Of course by that time, the rain had stopped.
On the way home I had lots to think about. I thought about how much I had enjoyed this job, enjoyed the people, the setting. And, for this evening event, what I kept thinking about….how much I rely on the kindness of strangers as a special needs mom.
And so, as I mull over all of the events since that night, and particularly since Election Day….I had an epiphany about what bothers me most.
It’s not that I fear the GOP way of doing things. It’s not that I just disagree with their views on guns, pro choice, public education. Politics come and go, laws change all the time.
What bothers me most……is that he’s not kind.
I cannot live without kindness. Our mere existence as a family depends upon the kindness of others.
Just yesterday, I took him to lunch after a doctor appointment. I had the host (who was only too willing…and kind) sit with Kevin for a minute while I used the restroom. My other options were try not to pee my pants or take him in with me and have him sit on the restroom floor against the wall while I went. (He cannot stand there and wait in case he would have a seizure and fall)
This morning, we had two more appointments at duPont, and again, I asked a mom in a waiting room to keep an eye on him while I used the restroom. Scenarios like this occur all the time in my daily life. Sometimes I offer assistance, sometimes I need assistance. Just like many are wearing safety pins these days, I have a friend who has an autism awareness pin on her purse, as a signal to other moms that she is understanding and willing to help in situations.
Without the kindness of strangers willing to lend a hand, I would be much more confined to the home. Or, if I chose the riskier options, he could fall over in a restaurant bathroom, could have slipped and fallen off the hay wagon, or gone the entire evening without anything to eat. I hate seizures but refuse to be a prisoner to them. I refuse to let Kevin miss out on life because he has Lennox-Gastaut. Seizures may have slowed us down, but they won’t stop us.
And now, our leader, our President….is certainly not someone known for kindness. Not only is he not known for being kind and giving….quite the opposite. He resorts to mocking, bullying and inciting nastiness. Some of his loyal supporters have jumped in with both feet to join him. Many schools and communities are reporting increases in religious and racial attacks.
I have to wonder….how much longer until it gets to me? To my son? How much longer until someone feels justified in being unkind to us, for no reason at all? I mean, there is absolutely no reason to be unkind. He’s appointed an Attorney General who has publicly stated that special ed kids are “irritating.” How long until this nastiness reaches us?
Just today, a former contestant on Celebrity Apprentice is reporting that he has tapes of him saying the N word, C word and calling his son a retard. It’s not just disturbing that he says these things. It is disturbing that his supporters don’t care. Imagine, calling your own son the R word. Not only do his supporters not mind, they enjoy it! How many times have you seen a Trump supporter on TV saying something like, “I like that he speaks his mind!” “He’s not afraid to say what he thinks!” No, no, just no.
After all, look at the tapes that were released before the election. How people could still vote for him after that is beyond me. Kindness is not about being politically correct, it’s about basic human decency.
I rely on kindness. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. Kindness is a sign of strength, not weakness. One time I heard a speaker say, “If you want to stop bullying, heal the bully.” That is soooo true. I’m not saying we give them a pass, but they have to heal. I’m not proud of it, but there are times in my life that I was not too kind. In hindsight, I realize it was my way as a kid of trying to figure out my mother’s death.
He’s a bully. And bullies are not kind people. We need someone more stable as our leader. Someone who has the ability to be kind.
There’s a saying or philosophy in education that says, “The principal sets the tone for the school building.” Most people in education will agree with this–the principal of the building is the leader and sets the tone for the building. Usually, when I am confronted with an IEP team that is belligerent and hostile, that tone goes all the way up to the principal. These situations are tough, because the uncooperative behavior is validated (and often encouraged!) every day.
This is what I fear for our country. That our President, who has used the N word, the R word, talked about grabbing women by the pussy and too many other derogatory terms to mention….that encourages and validates that same behavior at all other levels of our community.
It’s not kind. And I rely on kindness.
A few weeks ago, I ordered some spices from Penzey’s and in the gift box was a small lapel pin. It’s a heart and it says “kind.” That’s it. I think that is the pin I will be wearing for the next 4 years.
We cannot let kindness disappear. Being unkind is not acceptable.
Editing to add: Since I first wrote and scheduled this post, I have been the recipient of a few random acts of kindness and witnessed a few others. Some stranger paid off all the overdue lunch balances in our school! Kindness is not dead, we need to remember that, I need to remember that, even when I’m feeling down. And always pay it forward.
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