Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The kindness of strangers

Today was horrendous. I cannot even begin to convey the roller coaster ride that today has been. That is not the purpose of this post, but it is useful back story. I have been dealing with a situation that was created by other people's incompetence. It has been very stressful and was about to cost us a very large amount of money. Today was the absolute last day that I had to resolve the issue. So, that was today! Because of everything I had to do, I did not have time to go home and fix supper for my five children. I decided to take everybody to Qdoba.

Usually when I walk in someplace with my five children, people's eyes bug out. Oftentimes people choose to treat us poorly before they even have a chance to talk to us. I try hard to be super friendly and engaging, and many times I can win people over. It's hard work though, and there is no way I would have had any leftover energy to do any of that today. On top of all this, my youngest son has some special needs. His needs aren't super severe. He wasn't born with Down's Syndrome or something that is obvious to people when they look at him. In all probability with special education and a lot of hard work, he will grow up to be a normal adult with a few possible quirks. When people see him, they usually just judge him as a "naughty, disobedient boy." It's usually only parents who have special needs children who recognize his unique qualities. He is a very challenging child, but he is the most joyful child I have ever met. He exudes joy. I am fiercely protective of him because so many people don't understand or don't care and treat him in ways that can damage his self worth. I've had to sit in on activities, so that I could intervene and explain things to teachers. I quit attending play group. I make sure to have a discussion with pretty much any adult who will be interacting with my child for any length of time. The list goes on and on. Taking him on an outing by himself can be challenging enough, but throw four other children into the mix, and it can be downright exhausting.

Remember all of that. Now, we all walk into Qdoba, and I start ordering for the six of us. When I turned my back, my son starting doing something where he could get hurt. Over comes this man (I didn't realize he was the manager yet), and gently redirected my son. When I turned around and saw what had happened, I immediately thanked him. He gave me a big smile and said, "Oh, it's no problem. I just didn't want him to get hurt." Next, while I am paying, my son gets his meal and starts walking away before I can stop him and promptly drops his food on the floor. This manager kneels down to be on my son's level and says, "That one's dirty now, so I'll ask them to make you another one, okay?" He spoke to my son like he was a human being. The cashier and manager then help us carry all of our food outside and move a table for us, and the manager went in and filled all of our water cups, put lids and straws on them and brought them all out to us. I know it doesn't sound like much, but these people were so incredibly kind to us and went so far above what their job dictated. The most important part was the way they treated my children and especially my youngest son. I hate crying, and I REALLY hate crying in front of people I don't know, but I couldn't help it, I did it anyway. It's hard to describe the judgment I live with everyday when I am out with my children and the way my youngest son is treated by complete strangers and even sometimes by people who are not strangers. Kindness is so completely underrated in our society, but I tend to think that it is incredibly powerful. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers today, and I am thankful that our paths crossed.