First, I will set the stage. An acquaintance on Facebook had posted a picture of Helen Keller with a dog. The words that were graphed over the top and bottom of the photo read, "Helen Keller and her beloved cat, Mittens." Several people had already "liked" the photo and there were some who had commented and said that it was funny, and beyond funny. My heart truly started racing; it is even now as I take myself back in my mind to this occurrence.
"Don't be so sensitive."
"It's not meant to be personal."
"Laughter is the best medicine."
I couldn't hold my tongue...or in this case, my fingers. I went on-line and found a quote from Helen Keller: Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. I posted the quote on this persons Facebook timeline and said, "Thankfully, the person you're making fun of also is known for saying this: [insert quote]. She's an overcomer and so is my daughter who knows her cats whether she sees them or not."
For the rest of the day, I felt as though a battle was raging inside of me. This type of thing contributed to my lack of popularity in junior high and high school. I would jump to the "defense" of those with special needs or in a "lesser class" on the social scale of popularity. I was sensitive, even overly sensitive; I can admit that. Why did God wire me this why? Why can't I just hold my tongue and let that kind of stuff go?
As the mother of a child who is blind, my greatest fear is someone taking advantage of my daughter, or making fun of my daughter. This picture and the reaction to it, are evidence that there are people in the world who will not respect Evie for the beautiful, insightful, spirited person that she is. They will look at her and say, "she's an easy target." I question whether the people who laugh at this picture might be the same people who would see my daughter drop money on the ground, and, rather than telling her, they might think: It's my lucky day. I just made $20 bucks.
Will they laugh at her if she wears miss-matched socks?
Will they tell her that she put her shirt on backwards, or just snicker and point it out to others?
Will they help her out when she drops her white cane and can't seem to find it on the ground?
These type of "jokes" steal the dignity from a person living with a disability. We all deserve dignity, do we not?
I'll admit, I have not always thought of things this way. I may have laughed at this years ago as well. Just yesterday I was looking through Girl Scout Camp Songs, and picking ones for Evie and I to teach to her troop tomorrow. I saw a song about a shark, and it had actions (and Evie loves her action-songs). But as I read through the lyrics, at the end the shark bites off a person's leg, and we are supposed to hop around on one leg. Then we say, "Happy Shark." I immediately thought, "We can't do this song, it makes fun of people who might not have all of their limbs."
"But, Tammie," one might say, "Laughter is the best medicine." Laughter is good medicine. We have used laughter a lot in our family...all the time. Jeff and I used to joke that Evie's ultra-sounds and CT Scans were our "dates" that insurance would cover. Evie was sedated, so we would get a pager to notify us when the scan was over and she was waking up, and then we'd go get our coffee and scone, and have our date. We would laugh when Evie would wave at the doctors and nurses who would come into her room to check her out. She had to lift her eye lid up with one hand and wave with the other. The laughter wasn't because she looked "funny." The laughter was because she was an adorable bundle of happiness even though she was on chemotherapy and legally blind. Laughter doesn't have to come at the expense of another; the laughter that is good medicine comes from joy inside of us, in spite of our circumstances.
I could NEVER claim to be perfect. I make mistakes just like everyone. I might not realize when I'm being insensitive. In this case, I had to say something, even though I knew I might get hurt in the process. It still hurts, even days after it happened. But I hope that I have a heart and mind to listen if someone points out to me some evil that I may be doing. As Christ said, while dying on the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do..." and I know that I must forgive others when they know not what they do. Forgiving, however, doesn't mean we must stay quiet. It doesn't mean we don't bring to their attention an injustice when it is committed. Forgiving is really the act of moving forward and not lingering in the past, and not continuing to punish.
The song Losing by Tenth Avenue North really sums up my dilemma to these types of situations. How do you know when to take the high road?
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that's mine
Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it doesn't feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it's not that much
When I think of what You've done.metrolyrics.com
I'm sure I'll keep getting all fired up when I see something that really eats at the inside of me. I'll likely anger a few people along the way as well, and require their forgiveness. That's all part of this journey, and that's all part of how we become better people~recognizing and accepting our wrongs, making amends when we can, and looking to the future with a more compassionate sense of what is just and right in this world.