Many years ago, I heard this story:
A father and his small child are riding in a hospital elevator with another person, not known to them. The child was acting up. In close quarters, it was very disruptive. The father did not address the behavior, did not seem to even notice. As the elevator doors opened, the stranger in the elevator, made a snide comment about the child's improper behavior and lack of parental discipline. The father replied, "I am so sorry. I am just not sure how to tell him that his mother has passed away."
This summer, there were two times where I made assumptions about a situation without having all the information. Although I try to keep the above story in mind when assessing any situation, being human I sometimes jump to conclusions without having all the information. Ironically, in both situations, it was not obvious to me that people with special needs were involved.
Luckily, in both cases, a positive connection was made. After I figured out that the person burping in the middle of the grocery store was not simply being rude, but an autistic adult, out with his parents. I reached out to the Dad after realizing my mistake. We shared a short, yet meaningful dialogue while waiting in line. He shared his blog with me, written years ago. I cherish any knowledge from a seasoned parent who has raised a child with special needs.
My other assumption involved a child who kept staring at Ben at the pool and did not respond to me when I spoke to her. After assuming she was not well-mannered, I learned from her mom that she is speech delayed. Even this turned out well - I was introduced to a potential American Sign Language teacher for Ben.
We don't always have the whole picture. Sometimes we are missing a vital piece of information that can change the outcome of our response to an interaction which could have the potential of being a very important moment in our life.