Two weeks ago, I read a website about a little baby who has severe facial abnormalities that are fairly uncommon. The parents, who seem to be amazing advocates, were able to introduce their child to the town with an article in the local paper about her disability. The parents hoped to make introductions simple – they said, we’d love for you to come and talk with us, but we welcome a wave hello too. They were positive and open, and they gave easy instructions for friendly neighbors on what to do if they were seen out and about town.
Most people do not know how to react, what to say, where to look. So rather than be uncomfortable, they just ignore the whole situation, which comes off as being rude and ignorant. Or if they do take the risk and talk to the family, they may ask a question that may not be taken well by the parents.
When I was in college, I roomed with someone from St. Croix. My first comment to her parents was, “So your daughter is an international student.” Her wonderful parents did not laugh at my ignorance, just informed me that St. Croix is part of the US Virgin Islands. My question was handled so well by them. They did not make me feel stupid or dumb. Cheru came to be one of my dearest friends, and she allowed me to ask all types of crazy questions about her hometown and being Black.
My friendship with Cheru helped me to form relationships later with people very different from me. It also laid the groundwork for me to be accepting of people who ask questions about Ben when we are in public. I am able to answer their questions, trusting that their curiosity comes from a caring place.
Not only do we as the parents take risks, but those who care enough to open their hearts to a new experience take a risk too.